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Monday Message Board

September 14th, 2015

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. Ikonoclast
    September 14th, 2015 at 10:47 | #1

    Following on from the last post, I have a few general questions for discussion.

    Which Kind of Collapse?

    If a global economic collapse were to occur (which possibility is still contested of course) what form would it be most likely to take? Let us ignore causes like asteroid strike or nuclear war and just consider resources and economics. Let us also accept that a plateau or steady state economy in material terms (stabilised population and stabilised infrastructure) would not be a collapse. Indeed such an economy could still grow qualitatively as knowledge, science, technology and human services continued to progress.

    Which resource scarcities might trigger real global economic collapse? Energy seems to have been removed as a possibility. Advances in solar power and wind power alone indicate we can power an advanced electronic and electrical economy. Further, energy is a key resource or master resource (in my opinion) so removal of energy as a near constraint augurs well. If energy is freely available then other resource shortages can be overcome or ameliorated. Good energy availability allows greater leveraging of substitution possibilities in the economy.

    In this case, what of resource shortage dangers do we face? Shortages of fresh water, especially for agriculture, and shortages of topsoil, fertilisers and thus food might be a danger we face. The other candidate area for problems is the effect of waste on our environment. Waste heat is not a global problem though it can be a local problem. Material wastes (including CO2) would seem to be our problem along with species extinctions and loss of natural environments. This in turn leads to a loss of bio-services from natural cycles (physical, chemical and biological) in the biosphere.

    On the economic side, opinions seem to vary when it comes to the following question. Will economic stresses due to resource scarcity and bioservice scarcity (if these occur) lead to deflationary or inflationary pressure on the economy. Some pundits (I won’t call them economists) seem to predict deflation. Others predict inflation. There often seems to be an assumption that one or the other will inevitably flow from resource and bioservice scarcity. Surely, the answer would be “It would depend of which economic policies, especially monetary policies, are chosen to meet the problem”. I for one can’t see that the answer re deflation/inflation, if there was a resource/bioservice collapse and economic collapse, could be a foregone conclusion. That outcome must surely depend on economic policy decisions at the time? That is if that time comes.

    Hmmm, should this be in Monday Comments or a new Sandpit?

  2. Nevil Kingston-Brown
    September 14th, 2015 at 11:41 | #2

    I respect that JQ wants MMT discussions in general confined to Sandpits. However, Jeremy Corbyn, the new Labour leader in Britain, has explicitly called for “Quantitative Easing for the people” to fund governments “to invest in new large-scale housing, energy, transport and digital projects”, which seems to be MMT by another name, or something similar (http://theconversation.com/explainer-would-jeremy-corbyns-quantitative-easing-for-the-people-work-46368). So this seems to be a matter of direct relevance to current politics and hence I hope escapes the sandpit rule!

    Corbyn’s victory would seem to move MMT’s policy prescriptions much closer to being implemented in an activist policy form by a major economic power much closer to reality. The challenges raised in the linked article (inflation and depreciation) aren’t serious threats to Britain in the short-medium term, as they are near recessionary deflation as it is and depreciating against the Euro and US dollar would help their exports.

    But there’s still the longer term risk of a Corbyn government succumbing to “macroeconomic populism” and creating an inflationary explosion like Allende’s Chile or Garcia’s Peru (http://www.nber.org/papers/w2986), if they pursued “QE” policies beyond the point where currently slack resources in the UK (their unemployed) are taken up. Conversely the UK has several advantages over those states: a free-floating currency, no need to import foreign capital (both physical and financial) for development, and rather less chance of the US fomenting a coup. Those could mean that a Corbyn government would have space to rein in any inflationary pressure before it spiraled out of control.

  3. rog
    September 14th, 2015 at 16:22 | #3

    #libspill

  4. Uncle Milton
    September 14th, 2015 at 16:23 | #4

    So who wants Turnbull to beat Abbott? Be careful what you wish for.

  5. Tim Macknay
    September 14th, 2015 at 16:40 | #5

    Would a Turnbull government move to install something resembling a rational climate change policy? Time will tell, I suppose.

  6. Donald Oats
    September 14th, 2015 at 17:13 | #6

    Malcolm Turnbull might have the numbers, but, assuming he wins a contest against PM Tony Abbott, I have real doubts about the cabinet he would inherit. It is the most theo-neo-conservative cabinet I’ve ever seen in government, and I don’t think too many of them would be happy with the kind of policy narrative which Malcolm Turnbull would be likely to put out there. Turnbull is right wing, but still far to the left of much of his cabinet—or, at least that is what they seem to believe.

    The other little difficulty for MT is that the national disgrace will tear him down, being a drone for some US media tycoon, it is claimed. He won’t get any help from most of the cabinet, ergo he must do a major overhaul—a mauling rather than a reshuffling. That would create even further animosity between the theo-neo-cons and MT, so MT is caught on the horns of a pointy dilemma.

    IMO, MT should have waited until another cabinet minister chucked a grenade at the PM, then stepped in to split the vote. If he won that way, he could say it was a three-way contest, thus allaying some of the criticism which would follow from destabilising a sitting PM, and he could say that he beat, not one, but two, other opponents to win the slot. If he failed, he could at least say he wasn’t the spoiler.

    Goodtimes, Badtimes.

  7. Andrew
    September 14th, 2015 at 17:19 | #7

    At last!

    A Turnbull/Bishop/Morrison led government might finally return this country back to sensible and mature government – something we haven’t seen for a decade. I’m not sure what was going to be worse – another term of Abbott, or Shorten as PM.

  8. Tim Macknay
    September 14th, 2015 at 18:01 | #8

    @Donald Oats
    Presumably Turnbull will initiate a major reshuffle if he becomes PM. But I agree that the preponderance of wingnuts in the Liberal Party room does have the potential to limit his ability to change the direction of government policy . We can’t be sure that an actual spill will get up yet, although presumably Turnbull would not have made this move if he didn’t think he had the numbers.

  9. paul walter
    September 14th, 2015 at 18:05 | #9

    Turnbull has had no choice. Clearly Abbott’s hard conservative agenda is offensive to him, he has just wasted the years since he was rolled for the leadership implementing policies that he knows are useless.

    If he wins the leadership the party will have to swallow a bit, end some of the more reactionary stuff and reinvent itself as a small l liberal government in tune with the feelings and aspirations of a twenty first century electorate, or without even the pretence of liberalism it will go the next polls seen as it is now; reactionary and void of good attitude, motivations and constructive ideas, in which case Labor may be back in government within a year.

    If Abbott holds the PM ship, he will be badly wounded after Turnbull’s scathing attackhim and headed for probable defeat in a year or sooner.

    If Turnbull loses, he is free to leave and who would blame him if he did. Abbott drags his name down along with his own with the sort of government he does.

  10. Tim Macknay
    September 14th, 2015 at 18:31 | #10

    Abbot has announced there will be a spill this evening. The wags who said the Coalition would deliver a ‘faster, cheaper’ leadership spill than Labor were on the money.

  11. Donald Oats
    September 14th, 2015 at 18:32 | #11

    Read PM Tony Abbott’s comments on domestic violence. Perhaps he could broaden that to include off-shore detention centre violence, or is on-shore domestic violence just the latest issue to be randomly sprayed with Three Word Slogans, on the way to the next political issue.

    As for Malcolm Turnbull and his identification of leadership style as the issue, it isn’t just about the style, it is about the broken promises and the ransacking of our legal system, the entirely unnecessary and rather creepy incursions into our privacy, the incredibly conceited attitude in relation to South Australia and our major manufacturing industries, the cuts to health, science, education, research, and the wholesale assault upon the renewable energy sector.

    If MT wants to ride the winning horse, it had better not just be a show pony.

  12. Megan
    September 14th, 2015 at 18:53 | #12

    I think Turnbull has been set up (a bit like he was with the Godwin Gretch non-existent email) to flush him out. Right now heads will be getting kicked and stragglers being brought to heel. If Turnbull loses (I’m guessing he will) then he and his supporters are gone and the machine rolls on.

    $0.02

  13. rog
    September 14th, 2015 at 19:06 | #13

    @Megan Turnbull is an advocate, he has no real principles that would make him a politician. While I admire his intelligence I hope he loses. OTOH Abbott has a big task ahead of him, to turn the polls around.

  14. Megan
    September 14th, 2015 at 19:06 | #14

    P.S. – I see no practical difference between Turnbull PM, Shorten PM and Abbott PM.

    That makes it $0.04!

  15. Megan
    September 14th, 2015 at 21:54 | #15

    Well I was wrong about that!

    (i.e. at #11 not at #13).

  16. J-D
    September 14th, 2015 at 22:01 | #16

    @Megan

    The exclamation mark could create the appearance that you think that’s unusual.

  17. Jim Birch
    September 14th, 2015 at 22:06 | #17

    Abbott was a populist wingnut with catholic social tastes. Legacy: about zero. I’ll be glad to see him gone. And his idiot mates.

    Turnbull actually has liberal values. It will be interesting to see how this goes.

  18. Jim Birch
    September 14th, 2015 at 22:07 | #18

    …Also interested to see how Bolt, Divine, etc, react.

  19. September 14th, 2015 at 22:24 | #19

    The proof will be in the pudding. Lets see what Turnbull does, not what he says.

  20. Sancho
    September 14th, 2015 at 22:29 | #20

    Really didn’t think they could stomach Turnbull. Morrison will be hovering over him now, knife in hand.

  21. September 14th, 2015 at 22:45 | #21

    I should be happy because my Sportsbet ledger has just added a $535.00 credit:

    Item Date Type Transaction Details Debit Credit Balance
    14/09/15 22:03 Will Abbott face a leadership ballot? $100.00 @ 2.50 Win-$250.00
    14/09/15 21:52 Next Liberal Leader Malcolm Turnbull $100.00 @ 2.85 Win -$285.00


    But beneath this smiling face I am wearing a frown.

    Constantly chopping and changing popularly elected PMs on the basis of monthly poll flunctuations is bad for democracy. Moreover it gives unaccountable indirect political power to the MSM outlets who can afford to sponsor these polling companies. NEWS used Newspoll to unseat Rudd and get rid of the hated carbon tax and minerals tax. Fairfax used Ipsos to unseat Abbott, to pursue their pet policies of homosexual marriage and open borders for people smugglers.

    The MSM lost its rivers of gold revenue base when classified ads went to the internet. It is now heavily dependent on real estate promotion. The only way it can retain relevance is to double down on its King-making powers.

    The trouble is that the so-called King-makers are really more like children who have pushed teacher off the platform and are now milling about aimlessly wondering what to do.

    A sad day for democracy.

  22. September 14th, 2015 at 22:53 | #22

    Now Malcolm will get his name on the PM honour board. So theres that.

  23. September 14th, 2015 at 22:55 | #23

    No good day for democracy I’d say. Abbott was not good for democracy and basically won the last election by dishonesty. I don’t have a high opinion of MT, but he is a LOT better than Abbott.

  24. September 14th, 2015 at 22:57 | #24

    I meant ‘no, it’s a good day for democracy’ (disagreeing with Jack) . I see my phrasing was unclear.

  25. September 14th, 2015 at 22:59 | #25

    It will be interesting to see if Turnbull promotes substantive changes in policy, I mean beyond pandering to wishy-washy liberal hand-wringers on the subject of legalizing homosexual marriage, giving yet another green light to people smugglers and trying to breathe new life into the moribund Republic movement. None of these issues are big vote winners, if anything most of them are on the nose.

    His one true point of difference between Abbott and Turnbull was, of course, climate change. But Turnbull made no reference to this in his grab for power statesman like call for unity. So it looks like Malcolm just wants to be top dog. Situation normal.

    In a way this is useful to psephologists as the absence of policy difference between Abbott and Turnbull controls for policy and thus gives a good test of the influence of politician personality on partisan alignment. My guess: not much.

    So my money is still on the ALP in 2016.

  26. JKUU
    September 15th, 2015 at 00:08 | #26

    Turnbull will enjoy a (brief) honeymoon period with the electorate. The pressure is now on Labor, and the clock is ticking …

  27. Luke Elford
    September 15th, 2015 at 00:16 | #27

    @jack strocchi

    “Constantly chopping and changing popularly elected PMs on the basis of monthly poll flunctuations is bad for democracy.”

    No, you’ve completely missed the point. The polls (by all polling companies) have been consistently bad for the Coalition for well over a year: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Next_Australian_federal_election#/media/File:Australian_election_polling_-_two_party_preferred.png. They haven’t been fluctuating at all.

    “Moreover it gives unaccountable indirect political power to the MSM outlets who can afford to sponsor these polling companies.”

    Are you suggesting that the polls would be giving different results if you were the one commissioning them? Actually, I believe you.

    It’s a potentially great day in Australian political history. If Turnbull is successful in dragging the Australian right back from crazy town he will leave an incredible legacy. I’ve no idea if he can do it, but it’s certainly going to be entertaining finding out.

  28. Megan
    September 15th, 2015 at 00:19 | #28

    @J-D

    Careful, your comment could create the appearance that you are actually saying something for once.

    At least, that’s the way it could appear.

  29. J-D
    September 15th, 2015 at 06:36 | #29

    @jack strocchi

    On the contrary, constantly chopping and changing popularly elected PMs on the basis of monthly poll fluctuations is excellent for democracy. For us believers in democracy, the problem is not that it happens too much but rather that it doesn’t happen nearly enough.

    Congratulations on winning your bets, though.

  30. Ikonoclast
    September 15th, 2015 at 06:52 | #30

    Rapidly changing governments and even more rapidly changing Prime Ministers are signs that the electorate want real change. However, the electorate has not figured out yet that nothing will ever change under our two neoliberal parties. The result is this flip-flopping between them and the endless deposing of leaders. No effective repudiation of neoliberalism can begin to occur until the neoliberal majors (LNP and ALP) are both destroyed at the ballot box.

    It’s symptomatic and indeed systematic that under late stage capitalism, no matter who you vote for you get more late stage capitalism. Nothing really changes because nothing can change within this system.

  31. rog
    September 15th, 2015 at 07:41 | #31

    “Constantly chopping and changing popularly elected PMs on the basis of monthly poll flunctuations is bad for democracy.”

    There is no “elected PM” and those politicians that ignore polls are in danger of losing popularity.

  32. Ikonoclast
    September 15th, 2015 at 08:06 | #32

    @rog

    There is an elected PM. The election mechanism goes as follows.

    1. To become part of the parliamentary wing of a party, members must win seats in an election.
    2. This elected parliamentary wing of the party then elects a leader.
    3. If this party is already in government this leader becomes PM.
    4. If this party is in opposition, they go to an election with this leader. They must win a majority of seats and the leader must win his seat to become PM.

    What you meant, no doubt, is that there is no direct, popular election for the PM. For that matter, there is no direct popular election for the US President. Check the US electoral college system.

  33. Aardvark
    September 15th, 2015 at 08:40 | #33

    It wasn’t one or two bad polls, it was succcessive poor polling, successive bad decisions and successive head bobbles and stunned silence everytime he couldnt answer a critical question. Good opposition leaders don’t necessarily make good PMs. Ultimately good PMs dont get the heave ho by their own party unless they over stay their welcome (i.e. Bob and John).
    I think democracy has worked as it was clearly the will of the people through successive polls that they had erred (but chose the best of a bad lot at the time). Not a lot of time for Turnbull to acheive much given Shorten wont be interested in bipartisanship due to his own ambitions and his indication as willing to consult. He can either consult or do.

  34. Troy Prideaux
    September 15th, 2015 at 09:00 | #34

    J-D :
    @jack strocchi
    On the contrary, constantly chopping and changing popularly elected PMs on the basis of monthly poll fluctuations is excellent for democracy. For us believers in democracy, the problem is not that it happens too much but rather that it doesn’t happen nearly enough.
    Congratulations on winning your bets, though.

    It’s probably good for democracy, but it’s not good for leadership so nobody (on either side of politics) can complain about a lack of political leadership in federal politics because we all know that anything unpopular with the electorate will likely be punished promptly. Whether that’s a good or bad thing… who knows.

  35. J-D
    September 15th, 2015 at 09:06 | #35

    @Megan

    There are many subjects on which I have plenty to say if I feel like it. Sometimes I feel like it and sometimes I don’t. In general one of the factors that tends to influence me against expressing my opinions is whenever I get the impression that people aren’t interested. If you’re ever interested in what I have to say on any subject you could always try the experiment of asking me. I pay attention to that; and likewise I notice when people consistently do not take up the opportunity to ask me for my opinion.

  36. Ken Fabian
    September 15th, 2015 at 09:07 | #36

    We’ll have to see how MT goes – he has gained enough support within the party to overcome reluctance to oust their leader and that is indicative of how deeply dismayed they must have been with Abbott, but I do wonder if parallels with Rudd apply; supported for the sake of popular appeal, to win an election yet he and his likely policy direction not necessarily well liked or regarded within the party. Whether Turnbull can win over the caucus remains to be seen. I didn’t see a lot of real policy and admin ability evident in the government.

    We need to wait and see if “Policy not Slogans” is anything more than another three word slogan.

  37. John Quiggin
    September 15th, 2015 at 09:46 | #37

    Megan, put a sock in it

  38. tony lynch
    September 15th, 2015 at 09:48 | #38

    @J-D

    Oh, do stop it.

  39. Pete Moran
    September 15th, 2015 at 10:34 | #39

    I’ll try again; is there any merit to the ALP (and perhaps in private discussions with Turnbull) reheating the Clean Energy Legislation (Carbon Tax – to the LNPers)?

    Hear me out.

    1. We have data on how it did work.
    2. We know every part of the scare campaign and what mistakes were made.
    3. Business would understand what to do (they’ve used the same rules previously) – is there a change cost saving there?
    4. Re-start with a fixed price, turbo-charge renewable job engine/stimulous.

    Anyway, I didn’t think the Clean Energy package was perfect, but it certainly got us started transforming the economy, even if mildly.

  40. Tim Macknay
    September 15th, 2015 at 10:50 | #40

    @Jim Birch

    …Also interested to see how Bolt, Divine, etc, react

    Bolt has had a tantrum. Alan Jones is sulking. Not sure about the rest of them yet.

  41. rog
    September 15th, 2015 at 10:54 | #41

    @Ikonoclast I’ll rephrase it no I won’t

  42. rog
    September 15th, 2015 at 10:58 | #42

    Turnbull is outside the Lib political power group, to which Bolt Jones Newscorp IPA et al belong. Abbott was a faithful servant to that group and it did him in. Similarly Rudd rejected the ALP heavies leaving him isolated paranoid and eventually exhausted. Let’s see how Turnbull plays this one.

  43. Tim Macknay
    September 15th, 2015 at 11:01 | #43

    @Pete Moran
    I believe that Labor has maintained a commitment to reintroduce an emissions trading scheme. If Labor does re-form government in the near future (now potentially less likely than it was yesterday), it stands to reason that a new emissions trading scheme policy would be based on the Clean Energy Future legislation, just as that legislation was itself a tweaked version of the earlier Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme legislation.

  44. September 15th, 2015 at 12:40 | #44

    Jim Birch :
    Abbott was a populist wingnut with catholic social tastes. Legacy: about zero. I’ll be glad to see him gone. And his idiot mates.
    Turnbull actually has liberal values. It will be interesting to see how this goes.

    No, Turnbull only has liberal values in the U.S. sense of the term; Abbott actually taps into the legacy of values he received far more, e.g. Menzies’s values which, rather more importantly, are still shared by a material proportion of the electorate and fall under non-U.S. understandings of the term “liberal” (I have heard it suggested that fifty years ago he would have been a natural D.L.P. man, which sounds fair). That means that Abbott’s legacy should be read in terms of changes he has prevented or delayed, not in terms of changes he has made or a body of thought or of followers he has created (since they were already there): zero is the achievement for those who agree with Viscount Falkland’s aphorism that “when it is not necessary to change, it is necessary not to change”.

    One likely implication of this is that Turnbull and Bishop can never develop a pool of genuinely loyal followers but at best cupboard love from a sort of pilot fish and/or would be successors, or genuine loyalty from those who are deceived about them but only until they are undeceived. On the other hand, what Abbott faced was a shortage of people sharing his values within the party machinery – but people like that can be lastingly loyal. That’s because people sharing Turnbull’s and Bishop’s values can only exist within a party holding itself out as “liberal” if they are only using it but really false to it, and so naturally untrustworthy; the reverse applies within a party holding itself out as “socialist”, so Jeremy Corbyn can expect real loyalty within Britain’s Labour Party but Blair could only get that from the deceived.

  45. Donald Oats
    September 15th, 2015 at 14:01 | #45

    Tony Abbott didn’t even bother to gloss over the single biggest reason for his demise: he made promises he evidently never intended to keep, and people really really hate that in a politician, especially one who is vying for the position of Prime Minister of Australia; rather than gloss over this in his final speech to the media in his role as PM, he airbrushed it from history!

    The Australian public accept that when circumstances change unexpectedly, a politician may need to break a promise in order to deal with the changed circumstances; after all, this is real life. What the Australian public get miffed at is when promises are made which are never intended to be fulfilled. People really really hate naked deceit in politicians, and I’ll wager that is an underlying reason for the depressed polling of the LNP. Some of the biggest deceivers are still in cabinet, which is going to pose Malcolm Turnbull with something of a challenge. Further more, in honouring the policies set by Tony Abbott and the cabinet, MT has the recent record of NBN to worry about.

    Once TA is removed from the equation, we are still left with the scorched earth legacy of the first term LNP government. They’ve viciously attacked the significant policies of the previous two governments, terminating what could be terminated, and white-anting what couldn’t be terminated; unless MT can miraculously restore some of those policy areas to something resembling rational behaviour, the LNP will remain on the nose.

    Every new government likes to put its stamp on society. Tearing down all the policies of the previous (opposing) governments is rare though; the usual course is to adjust some policies, keep others, and to add new policies which align with the new government. Putting a wrecking ball through the previous opponent’s policies just smacks of vindictive and pretty spiteful behaviour. That is PM Tony Abbott’s legacy writ large.

  46. rog
    September 15th, 2015 at 14:10 | #46

    Yes, Abbotts main focus was to destroy the ALP, an ultimately unsustainable policy.

  47. BilB
    September 15th, 2015 at 14:30 | #47

    On the money Donald Oates.

    Abbott’s latest little tear down was of the board members of the NDIS., I was hearing the other night on Drive Time. If MT doesn’t do some restoration work he can fully expect every Lib political appointee being disposed of the day after the next election. John Howards speech demonstrated just where the stupidity of the Abbott government originated from. He attributions to Abbott were dumping the mining tax, dumping the Carbon Price, and keeping Labour out of government. Bipartisan government in Australia? you can forget it while Howard still breathes. He is a nasty piece of work, which explains why he got on so well with Abbott.

  48. rog
    September 15th, 2015 at 18:39 | #48

    With regard to the trickle down effect, I would hypothesis that the popularity of Turnbull is more along the lines of “hitch your wagon to a shooting star”

    Turnbull has successfully projected an image of competence, empathy and intelligence.

    However his record is that of one who acts only for himself without any regard for others.

    The Liberal machine might be in for a shock.

  49. ZM
    September 15th, 2015 at 20:39 | #49

    It will be interesting to see if the ALP retain Bill Shorten as leader against Turnbull. It is hard to know what Turnbull will be like, but he should be able to discuss reforms more rationally than Tony Abbott was.

    I went to a talk uni held in Bendigo last week on Federalism and reforms. There was a law professor who spoke about the structure of Australian federalism, a man from PWC who spoke about taxation across the States and Commonwealth and advocated a raise in GST, a woman who spoke about education and said States should be responsible, and John Hewson, and John Brumby.

    John Hewson was the only one to mention climate change, right at the end in an answer to a high school student’s question about how people her age can become more knowledgeable about proposed policies. And no other environmental issues were mentioned at all.

    It is very blinkered to talk about the reforms we need at the moment, without mentioning climate change and the other environmental sustainability issues.

    I think the ALP are not much better than the Liberal Party on environmental issues at the moment, except for the odd thing here and there. Turnbull was Minister for the Environment and introduced some reforms of the governance of the Murray River, so he might be able to move the Liberal Party forwards on environmental issues. And hopefully Australia will be more constructive at the Climate Change negotiations in December now.

  50. JKUU
    September 15th, 2015 at 22:29 | #50

    @Ikonoclast
    No, Australians do not directly elect the Prime Minister, the Parliamentary political caucuses do.
    Yes, despite the Electoral College, Americans do elect the President. Candidates names appear on ballot papers for the Presidency, not the names of the State Electoral College members. How do I know this? I vote.

  51. Greg
    September 15th, 2015 at 22:55 | #51

    FWIW does anyone suspect that “shoot the leader” is partly derived from the ridiculous and seemingly purely Oz demand that all MPs at all times vote the party line? This “every vote is a test of the leader” mentality does not allow, say, a socially liberal Turnbull to blow off some steam by voting for gay marriage and then continue on happily voting the party line thereafter. In this way all the small grievances just pile up and the only option is to change the leader.
    By contrast, does the (seeming) leadership stability in the UK partly come from the systemic allowance for members to blow off steam on issues that fire them up such as Iraq, fox hunting or gay marriage and then return to the fold. Equally does the UK system encourage more negotiation with various backbench constituencies?

  52. September 15th, 2015 at 22:56 | #52

    JKUU :
    @Ikonoclast
    No, Australians do not directly elect the Prime Minister, the Parliamentary political caucuses do.
    Yes, despite the Electoral College, Americans do elect the President. Candidates names appear on ballot papers for the Presidency, not the names of the State Electoral College members. How do I know this? I vote.

    Nevertheless, U.S. presidential elections are still indirect, if you were trying to make the point that that system is direct and thus different in kind. In extreme cases which actually happened once, presidents may not be elected to that office or to the vice-presidency by the public at all. At most you can state that it is “only a little bit pregnant” compared with a full blown Westminster System (but less so than some modified Westminster Systems).

  53. September 15th, 2015 at 23:10 | #53

    @Greg

    Having lived in and observed these things in both countries, I believe that compulsory voting has rendered Australian party machinery far more practically independent of the parties’ grass roots as those are no longer needed to get the vote out as in the U.K. and voters are less able to stay away rather than vote for someone else. Over time this has made Australian M.P.s far less sensitive to wider sentiment as they are less subject to repercussions from excluding that.

  54. Megan
    September 15th, 2015 at 23:27 | #54

    We can see the “difference” already.

    Abbott: “We Stopped The Boats”.

    Turnbull’s first statement: “And, of course, restoring the security on our borders has been an extraordinarily important step, enabling us, for example, to offer the increased and generous arrangements for Syrian refugees last week.”

    Translation: “We Stopped The Boats”.

  55. Ben
    September 15th, 2015 at 23:46 | #55

    @Tim Macknay
    Apparently not. Five minutes after saying that he believes in markets, he responded to a journo question saying that he planned to stick with Direct Action.

  56. September 16th, 2015 at 01:19 | #56

    someone up thread:

    Turnbull has successfully projected an image of competence, empathy and intelligence. However his record is that of one who acts only for himself without any regard for others. The Liberal machine might be in for a shock.

    Turnbull has a robust regard for self-interest. He struck down Abbott because he could and because if he didn’t there was a better than even chance he would never be PM. And we can’t have that.

    There is a good chance that the L/NP will lose the 2016 election (I have money riding on it) with or without Abbott as PM. Which means that its probable that the next chance for an L/NP premiership would be 2024, making Turnbull about 70 years old and past the age of retirement.

    So it was now or probably never.

    Anyone who thinks Turnbull is doing this for policy reasons has rocks in their head. The main point of substantive policy difference between Turnbull and Abbott was the issue of a charge on CO2 as part of a GHG mitigation scheme, with Turnbull falling on his sword whilst taking the high road. But it looks as if Turnbull’s idealistic days are over, since he had to make a deal with the Right to get the top job. Pacoe in the SMH reports:

    in his first outing as restored Liberal leader, Malcolm Turnbull was very strongly indicating he would keep his less-right-wing proclivities under strict control. That is a slight worry – an early example of Liberal Party politics trumping policy from the get-go of his prime ministership. Analyse Turnbull’s first public words as PM and they were as much about hosing down his party’s right wing as promising the nation better government.

    Indeed, the only concrete policy issue touched on on Monday night was to confirm the Abbott regime’s whacky “Direct Action” climate policy. It looks like Malcolm has learned from his mistakes as it was his commitment to an emissions trading scheme (ETS) that allowed Abbott to take his job as opposition leader by one vote…his first leadership decision has been for Australia not to lead…We’re irrelevant to international policy.

    Of course Fairfax will forgive Turnbull all his AWG sins because he will toss them some token gestures on gay marriage and asylum seekers. The liberal media-academia complex are a cheap date for a seasoned player.

  57. September 16th, 2015 at 01:22 | #57

    Pascoe goes onto to defend Turnbull on the grounds that he will inspire “business confidence” ie with Turnbull as PM the “confidence fairy” will leave a higher GDP on your pillow whilst you sleep, no need for Keynes or von Neumann:

    As written here on Monday, rebuilding confidence more broadly is the primary issue. For those who missed it, the opportunity for a fresh start with a credible communicator might be just what the missing “animal spirits” have been lacking. There have been curious things happening around business confidence and the willingness of business to invest. The same NAB survey that showed all the budget bounce had been lost also showed that current business conditions were pretty good.

    Truly the liberal conventional wisdom on economy (and ethncicity, for that matter) is quite a ways behind medieval debates on the population density of angels dancing on pin heads. The post-modern liberal world view is exhausted, not even Turnbull can breathe new life into this grimacing corpse.

    Speaking of which, even Abbott caved into a treacly wave of Gutmenschen opinion, signing off on letting a large number of “refugees” fleeing a civil war in Mesopotamia into this country. Remind me again how that worked out the last time we tried it?

  58. September 16th, 2015 at 01:47 | #58

    Q and A panel doesn’t measure up to Julian Assange’s ankles

    Those who sat through ABC’s Q and A on Monday night and its circuitous and incoherent ‘discussion’ about current geopolitics including Syria – “the Assad ‘regime’ has killed seven times as many Syrians as ISIS”, disproven allegations that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons presented as fact, etc., etc. ad nauseum – will be pleasantly surprised to hear heroic Australian Julian Assange speak about his new book ‘the WikiLeaks Files’ – I have bought the last copy from my local bookstore – and his insight into geopolitical issues including Syria, in which perhaps as many as 250,000 Syrians have died as a result of the terrorist invasion since March 2011.

    The Australian government, previously complicit in the invasion of Libya and a direct participant in past illegal wars against Iraq and Afghanistan, has also colluded in the terrorist war against Syria. On Tuesday 29 May 2013, Foreign Minister Bob Carr expelled the Syrian ambassador and increased sanctions against Syria. Bob Carr’s pretext was the claim that the Syrian government had murdered 108 of its own citizens at Houla on 25 May 2014. Bob Carr never asked the Syrian Ambassador for his own government’s account of the massacre. Evidence has since emerged that those killed lived in a region that was a stronghold of government supporters. The Houla massacre, like almost countless other massacres of civilians was pepetrated, before and since, by the terrorist opposition to the Syrian Government.

    Video: Assange on ‘US Empire’, Assad govt overthrow plans and new book ‘The WikiLeaks Files’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    Afshin Rattansi goes underground with the world’s most wanted publisher – the founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange. He has just co-authored a book – the WikiLeaks Files, and it paints a picture of systemic US torture and killing as well as the destruction of the lives and livelihoods of billions of people right around the world.

  59. J-D
    September 16th, 2015 at 07:19 | #59

    @Troy Prideaux

    ‘It’s probably good for democracy, but it’s not good for leadership’

    Some people respect the principle of leadership and the office of leader. Like every other form of respect for institutions, that’s an anti-democratic attitude. Not everybody is a democrat. I am, and democracy is what I want.

  60. J-D
    September 16th, 2015 at 08:31 | #60

    @Greg

    You compare Australia only with the UK. You might get different results if you used a wider comparison group.

  61. J-D
    September 16th, 2015 at 08:36 | #61

    @James

    Bob Carr never asked the Syrian Ambassador for his own government’s account of the massacre.

    You write that as if you think he should have done so. If that is what you think, it’s a daft idea. There is no point in asking an official representative of a government (any government) ‘Did your government perpetrate a massacre?’ An official representative (such as an ambassador) is bound to answer that question ‘No’, regardless of the truth and regardless of whether the official representative knows the truth, so asking the question gets you nowhere.

  62. Luke Elford
    September 16th, 2015 at 09:22 | #62

    @Ben

    It’s too much to expect immediate change on this or any other issue. A more gradual approach is the only realistic way in which Turnbull can turn the government around, since there is so much internal opposition to sensible policies: from the party vote we know that a little under half of the Liberals would rather lose with Abbott (or are so utterly deluded they still think he could have won) than risk policy changes in exchange for a potentially electable leader. And of course in challenging, Turnbull has just heavily criticised Abbott’s leadership style, with its use of captain’s picks, and promised a more consultative approach, so he can hardly announce sudden policy changes.

    It’s certainly possible that we’ll see no substantive change, even in the longer term. But I think we should take heart from the hysterical reactions of Bolt, Bernardi and friends to Turnbull’s victory.

  63. Anthony Morton
    September 16th, 2015 at 09:54 | #63

    Surely all booms end and the Australian mining boom is not a magic exception. A decent government would have asked long ago what is next and how can we prepare. Surely it must have been obvious that the future will depend mainly on replacing fossil fuels and fundamental to this developing energy storage to make that possible. Energy storage research appears now to be on the verge of making it possible largely to abandon fossil fuels. With some government support, Australia could have been a leader in developing energy storage and being a better society as a result (provided also that processes causing increasing inequality were to cease). One wonders if Australia now lags so far behind that catching up may be very difficult even if a new government seems to realize the obvious. Lets hope for our grandchildren’s sake our changed government tries. The prospects do not look good.

  64. September 16th, 2015 at 10:19 | #64

    Interview with President Bashar al-Assad: ‘If you are worried about refugees, stop supporting terrorists’

    Previously published (15/9/15) on RT. Watch the full version of the interview with President Bashar al-Assad on RT.com live at 03:00 GMT today on 16 September (1:00PM in Australia’s East or 11:00PM in WA).

    Europe is “not dealing with the cause” of the current refugee crisis, Syrian President Bashar Assad said in an interview with Russian media, RT among them, adding that all Syrian people want is “security and safety.”

    It’s not about that Europe didn’t accept them or embrace them as refugees, it’s about not dealing with the cause. If you are worried about them, stop supporting terrorists. That’s what we think regarding the crisis. This is the core of the whole issue of refugees.

    President al-Assad has also given lengthy interviews in English with interviewers less sympathetic than Lizzie Phelan of RT. This includes Charlie Rose of 60 Minutes and the BBC.

  65. J-D
    September 16th, 2015 at 10:19 | #65

    @jack strocchi

    Truly the liberal conventional wisdom on economy (and ethncicity, for that matter) is quite a ways behind medieval debates on the population density of angels dancing on pin heads.

    The conventional wisdom on ethnicity may be flawed, but it’s not nearly as badly flawed as the vicious conventional folly on ethnicity which you espouse.

    The post-modern liberal world view is exhausted, not even Turnbull can breathe new life into this grimacing corpse.

    The ‘post-modern liberal world view’ is a fantasy which does not exist outside your imagination.

    Speaking of which, even Abbott caved into a treacly wave of Gutmenschen opinion, signing off on letting a large number of “refugees” fleeing a civil war in Mesopotamia into this country. Remind me again how that worked out the last time we tried it?

    It did the country no detectable harm. Why do you ask?

  66. J-D
    September 16th, 2015 at 10:22 | #66

    @James

    I don’t consider speeches by national leaders to be generally reliable sources of information. They are usually themselves insulated by their office from significant information sources; also, they generally have some barrow to push or axe to grind.

  67. Tim Macknay
    September 16th, 2015 at 10:34 | #67

    @jack strocchi

    Of course Fairfax will forgive Turnbull all his AWG sins because he will toss them some token gestures on gay marriage and asylum seekers.

    Turnbull has already committed to maintaining the existing policy on gay marriage, and has spoken favourably about Abbott’s “stopping the boats”. I don’t think it’s any more or less likely that Turnbull will make substantial changes to those policies than it is he will make substantial changes to climate change policy.

  68. September 16th, 2015 at 14:52 | #68

    @J-D

    You clearly haven’t watched the video. When I can see that you have at least read the article, I might respond.

  69. J-D
    September 16th, 2015 at 15:23 | #69

    @James

    I have no intention of jumping through hoops for you.

  70. Megan
    September 16th, 2015 at 19:47 | #70

    @James

    I’m guessing that’s the same interview I just watched on “RT” (‘West crying for refugees with one eye, aiming gun with the other’ – on rt.com). It’s about 40 minutes and I recommend it to anyone genuinely interested in informing themselves about the issue. As with any exercise in research or forensics, things have to be considered and weighed up against other sources of information or evidence.

    Well worth a look – especially given that our country is now officially bombing their country.

    Frankie Boyle had a column in the Grauniad and this part is particularly worth quoting:

    Of course when parliament was asked to bomb Syria as part of Operation Hornets Nest it was to avert a humanitarian crisis. Now that there actually is a humanitarian crisis, our government doesn’t seem to care. We were going to bomb Assad, soon we will be asked to bomb the forces fighting Assad. The only difference between our lives and those of the workers in 1984 is that at least their jobs had breaks for drinking gin. Perhaps I’m being cynical, and the way to bring stability to a region is to bomb both sides in a bitter civil war, creating a power vacuum to be filled by moderate groups like The Screaming Sword of Allah or Superjihadi Endgame.

    Bombing would be an interesting response to a refugee crisis, resting as it does on the theory that Syrians are fleeing not because their country is at war, but because the war itself is not big and dramatic enough to really hold their interest.

    He gets it.

  71. September 16th, 2015 at 20:58 | #71

    Thanks Megan,

    Just briefly for now: The Guardian article by Frankie Boyle is Cameron won’t take refugees who have reached Europe – like there’s a humanitarian offside rule.

    The other article, which includes the 40 minute video of the interview of President Bashar al-Assad played earlier on RT On Air, is ‘West crying for refugees with one eye, aiming gun with the other’- Assad (FULL INTERVIEW). It includes the full transcript off the interview.

  72. September 16th, 2015 at 21:02 | #72

    Apologies,

    I omitted this heading, just before:

    Video of interview with Bashar Al-Assad found on RT

  73. September 17th, 2015 at 02:43 | #73

    Megan,

    The full transcript of the 40 minute interview with President Bashar al-Assad, copied from RT, is now included in the article on candobetter.net. The original video of the interview is not yet on YouTube, so it is not yet possible for me to embed the video.

    Even though English is not his native tongue, President al-Assad has proven himself to a moral and intellectual giant. The last leaders that I can recall whose stature comes close to his are Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy, JFK and Franklin Roosevelt.

    The ‘leaders’ of the Western world including Obama, Kerry, Harper, Hollande, Merkel, Cameron and Abbott – it’s a little early for me to form a firm view about Turnbull – don’t even measure up to to his ankles.

    These words from President al-Assad, are of particular concern:

    … the enemy we fight today has an unlimited supply of people. We have terrorist fighters from over 80 or 90 countries today, so our enemy is enjoying enormous support in various countries, from where people come here to fight alongside the terrorists.

    Unless, either the the flow of tens of thousands of sociopaths who are heading from around the world towards to join the terrorists in Syria can be stopped or some way can be found to match their numbers with volunteers willing to fight for Syria, I fear that the Syrian people could lose this war.

  74. Ron E Joggles
    September 17th, 2015 at 05:09 | #74

    @John Brookes
    Sorry, I’m reflexively pedantic – “the proof is in the pudding” makes no sense. The phrase is “The proof of the pudding is in the eating” – “proof” having its original meaning of “test”.

    But I know what you mean!

  75. Julie Thomas
    September 17th, 2015 at 06:43 | #75

    @J-D

    “I have no intention of jumping through hoops for you.”

    Have you ever tried it? It could be exciting you know and maybe you would find this exercise to be useful? Just a question for you.

  76. J-D
    September 17th, 2015 at 06:48 | #76

    @Julie Thomas

    Since you’ve just asked me a question, I’ll just give you an answer: No.

  77. Greg
    September 17th, 2015 at 07:24 | #77

    @J-D

    It is a small set, but I’m considering single member electorate parliamentary systems. Europe an NZ have proportional representation systems which have the automatic stabiliser built into the system – form your own party & govern by coalition. Canada seems more regionalised in its politics and to me many of the Asian democracies look close to hereditary democracies.

  78. Greg
    September 17th, 2015 at 07:43 | #78

    @P.M.Lawrence
    That resonates. So compulsory voting pushes candidate selection mostly back on to the hollowed out membership, supporting the polarised drift that the US accomplishes through gerrymandered electorates and primary elections that appeal to the base.

  79. Julie Thomas
    September 17th, 2015 at 08:35 | #79

    @J-D

    No? That’s not the way to encourage people to ask you questions. is it?

  80. Julie Thomas
    September 17th, 2015 at 08:37 | #80

    on second thoughts; it’s my problem because I asked a closed question. It would be better if I asked, why don’t you want to jump through hoops, J-D?

  81. September 17th, 2015 at 10:23 | #81

    “Jumping through hoops” or informing oneself about Syria?

    Please follow above link to find further links and embedded video.

    Julie Thomas on September 17th, 2015 at 08:37,

    What J-D calls “jumping through hoops” is no more than what I would have though that anyone, who is not already properly informed about the conflict in Syria, and wants to become properly informed, would do.

    It has been argued (here or elsewhere) that, because the interviewers were from media sources, including RT, already sympathetic to President al-Assad, the questions put were not too probing. I, nevertheless, thought that the question were good and that the answers helped shed more light on the Syrian conflict.

    However on other occasions, President al-Assad has faced lengthy interviews from other interviewers clearly hostile to him, including 56 minutes with Charlie Rose of 60 minutes and 26 minutes with the BBC (9/2/15) (see embedded video below). On both occasions, he has acquitted himself well. I have never seen President Obama, John Kerry or Hillary Clinton, Francois Hollande, David Cameron or Tony Abbott face anything like a similar amount of public scrutiny. If they had, they would have been cut to ribbons.

  82. J-D
    September 17th, 2015 at 11:21 | #82

    @James

    No, that’s not what I call ‘jumping through hoops’. What I call ‘jumping through hoops’ is being demanded to meet conditions set by another commenter as a prerequisite for receiving a response.

    The expression ‘jumping through hoops’ derives (as I expect you know) from what trained performing animals are induced to do for their trainers in expectation of some kind of reward — for example, in circuses.

    This is not a circus, I am not a performing animal, you are not my trainer, and a response from you to my comments is not a reward.

    Of course you are not obligated to respond to any of my comments. I assume that if you don’t want to respond to my comments, you won’t; and that, on the other hand, if you do want to respond to my comments, you will. You can decide for yourself whether you want to explain why you disagree with the position I avowed above (comment #66 on this thread). That’s the basis I operate on: I respond when I want to and I don’t respond when I don’t want to. I am not going to operate on the basis that you are in some sort of position of authority over me.

  83. J-D
    September 17th, 2015 at 11:31 | #83

    @Greg

    Saying ‘I’m only considering single-member-electorate parliamentary systems’ is one thing. Saying ‘I’m only considering the set of single-member-electorate parliamentary systems from which I have found one of a series of arbitrary reasons to exclude every single-member-electorate parliamentary system except Australia and the UK’ is another.

  84. ZM
    September 17th, 2015 at 14:03 | #84

    James,

    “Europe is “not dealing with the cause” of the current refugee crisis, Syrian President Bashar Assad said in an interview with Russian media, RT among them, adding that all Syrian people want is “security and safety.”
    “It’s not about that Europe didn’t accept them or embrace them as refugees, it’s about not dealing with the cause. If you are worried about them, stop supporting terrorists. That’s what we think regarding the crisis. This is the core of the whole issue of refugees.””

    I think the conflict in Syria is difficult, as I don’t share your high opinion of President Assad. Dictators often use the argument that they represent security to excuse the brutality of their regimes.

    On the other hand, I don’t really know how the conflict can be stabilised. It seems to me we are looking at the result of decades of poor treatment of the Middle East by western powers, but how that can be solved in the midst of a civil war is difficult. Perhaps Assad could step down and allow more representative government as part of a truce with the Islamic State, and UN peacekeepers could be put in. Or if he doesn’t want to step down entirely he could take a less active role, like the Governor General here.

    Once the conflict ends Syria will need a great deal of help rebuilding judging by the pictures now, and the damage will get worse with more aerial bombing. Since there is so much reconstruction to be done, possibly it could be a demonstration country for sustainability. This would assist the people as Syria would become more self-suffient and resilient, and as it would be a demonstration site for the world then it would be fair that it is allocated funds by international organisations without accruing debt.

    In terms of the refugee crisis, I don’t think it can be solved in this current national piece-meal fashion, there needs to be a global approach led by the UN to resettle the large numbers of refugees and displaced persons within a reasonable timeframe. I made a petition on Avaaz asking Ban Ki-moon to hold a UN Assembly on the refugee crisis, but I don’t think my wording was very good, as it isn’t getting any signatures.

  85. J-D
    September 17th, 2015 at 15:08 | #85

    @Julie Thomas

    I hope my response to James (comment #82 above) will also tell you what you want to know, but feel free to ask me for further clarification if not.

  86. J-D
    September 17th, 2015 at 15:34 | #86

    @James

    Even though English is not his native tongue, President al-Assad has proven himself to a moral and intellectual giant. The last leaders that I can recall whose stature comes close to his are Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy, JFK and Franklin Roosevelt.

    Would that be the same as the JFK who reportedly: gave orders for the ‘Bay of Pigs’ invasion of Cuba; increased US military involvement in Vietnam; offered covert assistance to the 1963 coup against the Vietnamese government; welcomed the 1963 overthrow of the government of Iraq; and refused an appeal from the Seneca nation to prevent their forced relocation as the result of flooding of land to which they were entitled under treaty? Would that be the same as the Bobby Kennedy who reportedly authorised wiretapping of Martin Luther King and other leaders of his organisation, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference?

  87. September 17th, 2015 at 23:19 | #87

    Greg :
    @P.M.Lawrence
    That resonates. So compulsory voting pushes candidate selection mostly back on to the hollowed out membership, supporting the polarised drift that the US accomplishes through gerrymandered electorates and primary elections that appeal to the base.

    @Greg

    It’s not so much candidate selection, since that works out away from the uninvolved in the U.K. as well as in Australia (I was once involved enough to help select a U.K. local government candidate – we grilled the front runner we eventually chose far more than her competitors, leaning over backwards not to give her a free run and also to avoid letting something seriously disqualifying getting past our interest in her). Rather, since any actual Australian representative doesn’t need a large pool of grass roots to get themselves out so they can in turn get the voters out, no representative needs to look any further than the candidate selection stage and the narrow group of selectors. That does need to be repeated in case some big noter waltzes in, hypothetically at Wentworth; when that trick was tried in the U.K., it generally backfired as ordinary voters stayed away (even more so if an M.P. was kicked upstairs to the House of Lords to make a bye-election to parachute in a bigwig who had just lost his run in a recent general election, as happened to Labour in the 1960s if I recall correctly). The British system effectively requires M.P.s to keep working their constituencies continually, something I have only seen in Australia among Jewish M.P.s (of both sides) in largely Jewish areas, in which I suspect a further dynamic is at work within the Jewish community. I can only comment on the internals of this at second hand based on feedback from Jewish contacts (“they put up a Jewish candidate of their own against our one to steal our Jewish voters!” – possibly said in jest, though I have never suspected lefties of that sort of dry wit), and on the tendency to work the outside by choosing candidates with Anglo names rather than Mitteleuropean ones (Danby, Southwick – I have actually visited Southwick Hall in England).

  88. September 18th, 2015 at 01:02 | #88

    Oz Media breakthrough on Syria: Lateline Tony Jones interviews Dr Bouthaina Shaaban, President al-Assad’s key advisor

    Video-link and transcript inside: Finally the Australian media has shown some professionalism and has asked questions of the ‘other side’, Syria, instead of simply making it up. And it was Tony Jones of the ABC who courageously led the way on Lateline tonight. President al-Assad’s advisor, Dr Bouthaina Shaaban, does an admirable job of clarifying the problem and sorting out priorities. Mr Jones asks questions that reflect Western paranoia, but Shaaban is not diverted from her representation of the needs of the Syrian people. “…Targeting presidents in the Middle East does not aim at presidents. It aims at destroying our country, turning our identity, erasing our cultural heritage, destroying our institution. It is Syria that has been targeted, it is not President Assad. President Assad is standing with his army and people to fight for the unity and territorial integrity of his country and this is what we are doing here.” This interview probably comes in the wake of the Russian interview with President Assad (republished here). Dare we hope that justice might prevail; that some sense of proportion might restore itself in the western world’s to date unhealthy interest in ‘regime’ changes in the Middle East, each of which has been more of a humanitarian disaster than the last? Yes, we dare hope. Thank you Tony Jones.

  89. J-D
    September 18th, 2015 at 10:42 | #89

    @James

    Here’s part of the transcript:

    TONY JONES: … President Assad also stands accused of crimes against humanity, of torturing, starving, of killing thousands of his opponents and that killing was done by branches of the Syrian security services, according to evidence. … three former UN war crimes prosecutors investigated the evidence smuggled out of … Syria by a former military policeman. He brought 55,000 photographs of 11,000 dead bodies, all of whom he claimed were killed by your security services, starved, tortured, beaten, and his evidence by those three war crimes prosecutors was found to be most credible.

    BOUTHAINA SHAABAN: … I was interviewed at least three times … about these fabricated pictures …

    TONY JONES: … Now these three war crimes prosecutors, all very credible men, believed the evidence to be real.

    BOUTHAINA SHAABAN: … The three men believe that the evidence could be real. What if the evidence was absolutely nonsense? What if these three men were absolutely wrong? …

    Here’s what I’m thinking. Let’s suppose I’m on the jury at a trial — any trial, of anybody. Let’s suppose the prosecution case included photographs of dead bodies, and a witness who testified about who did the killings, and experts who testified that the evidence was credible. Let’s suppose the defence case was this: an advisor personally selected by the defendant says that the photographs were fabricated; and the defence says ‘What if the prosecution is wrong?’ At that point I’m thinking I’m not ready to acquit. I don’t think ‘What if?’ is a strong defence.

    I suppose some people might think that is a strong defence, strong enough for an acquittal. It doesn’t seem that way to me. If I were a defendant in a trial I’d be hoping to come up with a stronger case than that, because I would not feel confident it was enough for the jury to acquit me.

  90. Julie Thomas
    September 18th, 2015 at 11:23 | #90

    @J-D

    Thanks but that would be too easy. Anyway, I like jumping though hoops sometimes and you know, it’s not only circus animals who jump through hoops. I know people who pay money to take their border collie dogs to a place where they can jump though hoops and other things that poor city dogs never get to do, like rounding up sheep even.

  91. Megan
    September 18th, 2015 at 12:00 | #91

    If the prosecution’s case consisted of photos of dead bodies and a report saying the photos tended to establish the guilt of the defendant for their deaths, a good defence team would test the provenance of the photos and the report:

    The report was authored by de Silva, Crane, and Professor Sir Geoffrey Nice, former lead prosecutor against former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

    Its release comes just days ahead of the Geneva II conference, the latest push for a diplomatic solution to Syria’s bloody civil war.

    The lawyers were hired to write the report by the British law firm Carter-Ruck, which in turn was funded by the Government of Qatar, de Silva told Amanpour.

    CNN was referred to Carter-Ruck, and this report, by a Qatari government official, and a CNN producer met in the Qatari capital Doha with the report’s authors.

    Any half-decent defence counsel would destroy the prosecution witnesses’ credibility if it turned out that the report was commissioned and paid for by a sworn enemy of the defendant.

  92. J-D
    September 18th, 2015 at 12:24 | #92

    @Megan

    You may be right about what a defence counsel would do. To make the kind of case you’re suggesting, I suppose the defence would have to present evidence that the government of Qatar is a sworn enemy of Bashar al-Assad (or something like that). Possibly the experts would be prepared to take the witness stand and testify that they were not influenced in any way in preparing their report by the source of the funding (that is the kind of thing experts do say, even if it’s not always true); and then perhaps the defence would attack their credibility in cross-examination, perhaps convincingly. If the experts were on the witness stand and cross-examined they would need not only to state their conclusions but to give some account of their reasons for them, and then the jury (if it was a jury trial; if not, the bench) would have to form its own evaluation. It would be interesting (I mean, it would interest me) to see the issue fought out in court by a good defence counsel and a good prosecuting counsel, but I suppose (in this case) that’s not very likely.

    Anyway, I didn’t suggest that there was no possibility of a convincing defence, only that I couldn’t see a convincing defence in the points mentioned in the interview James linked to, where the question of funding by the Qatari government was not raised.

  93. Megan
    September 18th, 2015 at 13:17 | #93

    The report had two components. A defector called “Caesar” provided thousands of photos to one of the members of the group that wants to be the government of Syria after regime change (Syrian National Movement). SNM made the photos available to the report’s authors. “Caesar” said the photos were taken at a military hospital where bodies of dead prisoners were taken.

    One task was to examine a few hundred of the photos to see if they looked fake (the report said ‘no’) and to describe what they showed (‘dead people’). The task of the three legal experts in question was to see if they thought “Caesar” appeared honest and credible to them (they said ‘yes’).

    Part of the report reads:

    If he wished to exaggerate his evidence it would have been very easy for him to say that he had actually witnessed executions. In fact, he made it quite plain that he never
    witnessed a single execution.

    At no stage did “Caesar” indicate to members of the inquiry team that he had been present when any torture or any execution had taken place.

    So the prosecution evidence is that the photos showing dead people appear to be real and the person who says he took the photos and says he never saw anyone being killed or tortured, appears to be telling the truth.

    The interviewee had a point when she said: “…Tony, let us respect the intelligence of your viewer.”

  94. J-D
    September 18th, 2015 at 14:36 | #94

    @Megan

    You quote the report as saying that ‘Caesar’ did not tell the members of the inquiry team that he had been present when executions took place. That’s what he did not tell them. But how about what he did tell them?

    If ‘Caesar’ were a witness at a trial, and subject to cross-examination, he might well be asked to explain how (he says) he knows anything about how people were killed if he did not see it happen. He might have no answer. He might have unconvincing answers. Or he might have very strong answers.

    Perhaps (I don’t know) if you were on a jury at a trial you would completely disregard anything that a witness said about a death if the witness did not personally see the person die (or at least claim to have done so). That would not be the position I would take. The evidence of somebody who saw something happen is not the only kind of evidence that can be convincing.

    It’s also possible that if there were a trial ‘Caesar’ would not be willing to testify. I don’t expect we’ll find out. As I wrote before, I think a trial would be interesting, but I don’t think it’s likely to happen.

  95. September 18th, 2015 at 17:59 | #95

    Syrian government’s account concealed from the Australian public since March 2011

    A critical point, missed by J-D, is that, until Dr Bouthaina Shaaban appeared on Lateline last night, I know of not one instance [1] where a single representative of the Syrian government, or, indeed, anyone prepared to argue its case, for example Australians for Mussalaha (Reconciliation) In Syria (AMRIS), was ever given a chance to do so on Australia’s mainstream media outlets, since the war began four and a half year ago in March 2011. If J-D, or anyone else, knows of one instance, then please let us know.

    For anyone who is knowledgeable about the conflict in Syria, the reason is obvious. Nearly every ‘report’ about Syria in our MSM was a fabrication and would have been quickly shown up as such by groups such as AMRIS or any representative of the Syrian government. The whole tissue of lies created by the ABC, SBS, the fairfax media, NineMSN, etc. – that Bashar al-Assad was a corrupt and hated mass murderer, had used chemical weapons against his people, had dropped ‘barrel bombs’ on schools, hospitals, etc. – would have been torn to shreds had any one of those claims been put to AMRIS, or any representative of the Syrian government, as it was on Lateline last night.

    Footnote[s]

    [1] An exception was when Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, for a short while, gave coverage to the efforts, on behalf of Syria, of Lebanese Carmelite nun Mother Agnes Mariam, but that was quickly forgotten.

  96. J-D
    September 18th, 2015 at 18:56 | #96

    @James

    So according to your footnote, when you say that you do not know of one instance, what you mean is that you do not know of one instance with the exception of that one instance that you do know of.

    Anyway, let’s suppose, again, that I’m on the jury for a trial — any trial, of anybody, on any charge. Let’s suppose the defence argues that the prosecution case must be lies because the defence case has never been reported in the mainstream media. I wouldn’t find that a convincing argument — I mean, if the jury ever got to hear it; if the prosecution didn’t object and the judge didn’t decide it was irrelevant. Perhaps you would find it convincing. One of the reasons it would interest me if this trial actually happened would be the chance to find out whether an actual defence team would use any of the kinds of arguments that you come up with. I wonder whether by any chance you know of any actual trials where any arguments of the same kinds as yours have ever actually been used.

  97. September 18th, 2015 at 21:13 | #97

    Verdict on the mainstream media’s (MSM) Syria ‘reporting’ from court of public debate

    J-D,

    As I have acknowledged, on one occasion of which I am aware, since March 2001, that is, when Rupert Murdoch’s Australian reported about Mother Agnes Mariam, we learnt from that MSM outlet some of the truth about Syria. On every other occasion, the MSM has misinformed its readers, viewers and listening audience, about the Syrian conflict. In the court of reasoned public debate and not the ‘law court’ in which you would prefer the case to be heard, my case would win hands down.

  98. September 18th, 2015 at 22:17 | #98

    J-D,

    If what you say about President John F. Kennedy is true, then clearly I am wrong to liken Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to JFK, however …

    Vo Nguyen Giap: JFK planned to end war against Vietnam in 1964

    J-D wrote on September 17th, 2015 at 15:34 :

    [JFK] increased US military involvement in Vietnam [and] offered covert assistance to the 1963 coup against the Vietnamese government.

    General Vo Nguyen Giap (1911 – 2013) who led the Vietnamese armies to victory over the French at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 and to victory over the United States in 1975 acknowledged that President John F. Kennedy intended to end the Vietnam War in 1964 after he was re-elected. However, as we know, JFK was murdered on 22 November 1963, after which his successor, LBJ escalated the war against Vietnam and several millions more Vietnamese, Cambodians and Laotians died.

    These were amongst the reasons for which the Military Industrial Complex killed JFK – or do you think that he was killed by a lone solitary gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald?

  99. September 18th, 2015 at 23:39 | #99

    I meant to include the following at the start of my previous post. My apologies.

    @J-D wrote:

    [JFK gave] orders for the ‘Bay of Pigs’ invasion of Cuba;

    In fact, the Bay of Pigs invasion of 17 April 1961 was organised by the previous administration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. After President Kennendy was persuaded that the Cuban exiles would be welcomed by the Cuban population as liberators from Fidel Castro’s “communist dictatorship”, he allowed the Bay of Pigs invasion to procede, but warned the Cuban exiles that they would get no military assistance from the United States.

    Instead of greeting the invaders, Cubans rallied to the support of Fidel Castro and defeated the invaders. As they were being driven into the sea, the invaders appealed to JFK again and again for support from the US Air Force and Navy and, as he had already warned the Cuban exiles, he refused.

  100. September 19th, 2015 at 02:23 | #100

    International alliance’s strikes [led by US, Britain, Australia and France] in Syria violate international law

    The air strikes carried out by the international alliance against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria “ISIS” terrorist organization in Syria contradict with the international law and don’t affect the capability of the terrorist organization, Russia’s Permanent Representative to the UN Vitaly Churkin said.

    What our western partners are doing in Syria is considered a flagrant violation of the international law as they justify their steps by the Article 51 of the UN Charter on the right to self-defense, Churkin said in a press conference in New York Wednesday, adding that they carry out strikes in the territories of a sovereign country without the approval of its government.

    Damascus says the three countries should stop sending terrorists into Syria if they want to fight terrorism.

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