Monday Message Board

It’s time for the regular Monday message board, where you are invited to post your thoughts on any topic. Regular reader Nicholas Gruen has suggested that we discuss the possibilities of a single party holding government nationally and in all states and territories. I’ve taken the liberty of posting some of his message as a discussion starter.

Civilised discussion and no coarse language, please.

46 thoughts on “Monday Message Board

  1. I’m amazed that more thought and agitation is not going into the question of what might be possible with all state governments being held by the same political party. I thought the question might be about to be rendered academic, but the WA election revives the issue.

    The States could – for instance – agree not to compete with each other to attract investment (at least not with beggar my neighbour cash assistance). They could harmonise lots of things and make life easier for businesses that cross borders. They even have a collective interest in preventing cost shifting onto the Federal Government – since this is ultimately at the expense of their own constituents (when one considers the States’ position collectively).

    They could introduce death duties (Yikes!) and use the money to fund reductions in other taxes.

    I guess none of this is all that close to ‘political reality’ but wouldn’t some talk about it do some good?

    I expect there are lots of better ideas than this small list however. What things might the states be able to promise to do together if a Federal Labor Government was returned? Could they be made electorally popular – could they contribute to a Federal Labor victory?

  2. Interestingly enough I thought I caught the end of a news spot this morning that the Howard Govt was considering issuing a ‘report card’ on the States as to their levels of spending on hospitals and health. Presumably this could extend to all sorts of report cards on things like literacy, school retention rates, crime statistics, child care palces and nursing home beds, etc. Given that the Feds raise most of the taxes, and the States spend it, would this sort report carding be any different if we had a Federal Labor Govt now. My hunch is no.

  3. Richard Pratt Has urged the Bracks government to “use this year’s state budget to greatly increase spending on roads, railways and other “nation-building” infrastructure.”

    Mr Pratt said that after more than a decade of tight budgets under the Bracks and Kennett governments, Treasurer John Brumby should this year signal a dramatic change of direction.

    “Politicians on both sides of the political fence have become too obsessed with driving towards the elimination or near-elimination of public debt,” Mr Pratt, chairman of Visy Industries, said.

    “In general they have done a great job of fiscal management, but now it is time for the pendulum to swing back, or we risk serious infrastructure failings in the decades ahead.” This will be very hard to do for any Victorian Labor government while voters can remember the last term of previous one. While some economists believed that Kirner debt was not the end of the world, we have been subjected to the idea that like our personal households too much debt is bad. Labor for some strange reason is seen good in providing services but a bit suss on the economy. If the economy went into the red we can already see the Liberals make huge mileage as the ‘Guilty Party returns’ and how the ALP is back to form and cannot be trusted with the economy.

    (p.s Australia’s deficit on trade in goods and services with the rest of the world grew $307 million to $2.7 billion in January, new figures released today show.. I am not knowlegeable enough to know whether this is good or bad.)

  4. JQ,
    I was reading through several of the threads on this blog and one of the things that struck me is some of the definitional problems we consistently have. The fact that many on this site, and in politics generally, maintain the attempt to use the way that the Third Estate chose to arrange themselves at the meetings of the Estates General in 1789 (the left to right ‘spectrum’), to me at least, only serves to at least partially obscure our viewpoints.
    To me, on the left to right ‘line’ I sit on both the left and the right. Economically, I believe in minimal state intervention – placing me firmly on the ‘right’. Socially, I also believe in minimal state intervention – this time placing me firmly on the ‘left’.
    However, I also believe that the (at least mostly) ‘free’ and wealthy nations have a responsibility to act in a way that helps the less free and wealthy (a possibly leftist viewpoint), but I also believe that this can be helped by the use of force (a rightist viewpoint).
    I get accused of being a ‘wet’ by some when I say that everyone in detention deserves a fair trial in reasonably short order, but agree with them that most ‘politically correct’ statements are factually incorrect.
    I was just wondering how useful others find the ‘left’ and ‘right’ tags. I find things like Political Compass to be much more useful, but more difficult to explain.

  5. Suprise: Labor has not lost in 10 years

    not once since 1995 when Carr won the NSW state election has labor suffered defeat in a state parliment
    almost exactly the same length of time the liberals have controlled the federal government

    When will the next switch in political polarization of our federal / state sphere occur.
    perhaps not until Labor wins federally will the Liberals win a State Election

    It probably would only takes a small percentage of voters (5-10%) to vote one way federally and the other way at state elections to create this oscillating effect.

    how long until the next government falls

  6. PM – I take it you mean the English Civil War. Interesting – I will have to have a look.

  7. There is a great deal the 8 State/Territory governments could have done together in the last few years, and its interesting they haven’t. This partly reflects their generally right wing nature. The ACT government is probably the only left wing government in the country! There is lots of good the States could have done on law, order & prisons but have chosen instead to be reactionary. They could have done something substantial together about greenhouse, but have chosen only to establish a talking shop. They could have done something about dental health.
    Generally they are in favour of Howard government policies.

  8. As the old posts about the compass seem to have miraculously re-appered, I thought I should re-take the test and give a score. If you are interested, I am:
    Economic Left/Right: 6.00
    Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -4.15
    and therefore in the quadrant with Milton Friedman.

  9. Alpha coward – you continue to fill this blog with unadulterated nonsense, time after time. Clearly you need a Social libertarian / Authoritarian to to show u a good time.

  10. There’s still very little comment on what concrete achievements might be made possible by this alignment of Labor state governments. For instance, its easy to say that state governments could do greenhouse, but it is definitely much easier with a sympathetic Federal Govt because it interstate distribution of income is involved, and to do it fairly would (arguably) require some interstate redistribution – something much easier to administer at the Federal level than to get agreement between the states on. Its an easy call to make that they should be co-operating, but the call would have a lot more weight with a log of claims – a list of things that should be done.

    More ideas please.

  11. Nicholas. Grow up. state governments are jus blown up parent and friends associations, with the same level of policy nous. The states will never agree on anything – self interest is the key always.

  12. Alpha Coward and Nicholas- Please ignore the Razor post at 10 and 12.

    It appears somebody does not like my point of view and has decided to try and get me banned.

    Kind Regards


  13. For what it’s worth to you Andrew I’ve taken that compass test twice now and am so close to the crosshairs that any deviation from the intersection is negligible. Lonely territory I gather.

  14. Nick, I wish I still had your faith that Labor governments actually want to do anything except stay in power.

    My own personal experience has disillusioned me on that score. I recall once when I (unsuccessfully) sought ALP preselection one of the powerbrokers in the exercise asked me why I was standing. I said that I wanted more money spent on education, better coordination of health services etc., a list of policy goals. And the response was along the following lines: “everyone says that. but what do you really want? which of your mates do you want to get in to positions, how much money do you want to make under the counter, which organisations will you be doing favours for”. My response was that I did actually want to achieve the policy goals I’d outlined. The person opposite called me “a [expletive deleted] liar” and went round telling others I couldn’t be trusted because I wasn’t willing to reveal my genuine agenda.

    As far as I can see the Labor governments at State level have discovered that preservation of the status quo, with some occasional tweaking when problems are revealed, is a lot safer as a way of staying in power than actually doing anything to make the system better. This unfortunately includes the ACT (sorry Johng) where there have been numerous reports, strategies and plans but nothing by way of real structural change to the delivery of services or to government policy directions.

    If we did have a willingness to change things among State/Territory governments (and despite my comments above, maybe it will happen some day, we can try to be optimistic) my list would include:

    common health records that can be transferred easily between jurisdictions

    uniform, clear, simple and well explained basic planning rules – modified for local exceptions (eg special climatic, heritage or community interest grounds) via a transparent process

    with Nicholas, absolutely, an end to State industry assistance competition, whether through cash handouts or regulatory exemptions, that only end up leaving everyone worse off

    more consistency in OHS, food safety, etc. regulation (in fact, more uniformity in regulation overall would be a good thing)

    consitent rules on schooling – eg when children can start school (currently different in the various jurisdictions – try moving interstate with a 4-5 year old to see how irritating this can be)

    Incidentally, Observa, there is already a report card on many of the aspects of State/Territory service provision, produced annually by the Productivity Commission. It is a bit bland and LCD, given it has to be agreed among all players, but still a useful comparative study.

  15. Stephen,Maybe if those committed to social justice had supported their views with rational analysis rather than emotion and ideology, then the win at all cost crowd would not have dominated some many debates. JQ’s book on microeconomic reform was one of the few attempts I can remember where someone systematically examined the issue rather than simply label those they don’t like economic rationalists and assume that automatically wins them the debate. That said, I am almost nostalgic for such debates now given the current state of blame where dislike of Howard and Bush has reached such a pathological level in many people that even maintaining the illusion that many social progressives are rational or even well-intention is no longer possible.

  16. Shorter Burgess: If you want social justice you must support the Howard-Bush military adventures because otherwise people will conclude you’re irrational and therefore won’t pay attention to your sound arguments about economic policy, and consequently the cynical and corrupt will prevail in domestic politics.

    Next week’s episode: How critics of US foreign policy are destroying the rainforests of Borneo.

  17. Re. Left wing/right wing. Supposedly the Jacobins (extremists) sat to the left of the Speaker in the French National Assembly after the Revolution and the moderates sat to his right.

  18. That was incredibly silly, especially given that most critics of economic rationalism have now conceded that many economic changes were desirable and, consequently, that their initial naïve oppositionalist stance was clearly unproductive and sidelined them from the debate. In the UK, of course, individuals such as yourself did a great job of keeping Thatcher in power by offering no credible alternative. That is, until Blair came along and rightly marginalised individuals such as yourself and, contrary to the claims of his critics on the left and right, went on too improve the health and education services while maintaining a strong economy.

    I note your assumption that if you support Howard, Bush et al, in getting rid of sadistic dictators and religious extremists (the Taliban) you must also somehow support the destruction of rain forests etc. This of course is a similar line of logic to right wing view that if you support great state intervention in some areas of the economy you’re a socialist and probably a communist and therefore support gulags etc. As Robert Hughes suggested in his book ‘the culture of complaint’ (which I am sure you have never read) the left and right of politics all too often resembles two mad tribes barking at each other.

  19. ‘…individuals such as yourself did a great job of keeping Thatcher in power…’

    Individuals such as myself who…who disagreed with the recent invasion of Iraq? We kept Thatcher in power? I guess from your point of view, anyone who disagrees with the war is a naïve oppositionalist, and a naïve oppositionalist is bound to have naively opposed Thatcher.

    The Borneo comment was a reference to your creativity in finding in any discussion a pretext for denouncing your naïve and hypocritical ex-friends. You have every right, of course, but I don’t think that anti-Americanism etc. was in the forefront of Stephen’s mind when he wrote about cynicism and the ALP.

  20. Stephen, thx for your comments which are pretty helpful – though my comments seem (to me at least) to be pretty independent of any optimism or pessimism about governments doing the ‘right thing’. Govts in my opinion tend to do the ‘elite’ thing – pretty much whatever ‘informed opinion’ thinks sd be done (subject to some constraints supplied by what the columnists call ‘political reality’) The gutsier politicians have been able to transcend that game and get their own elite pushing ideas their way. But coming up with a coherent set of ideas about what must be done can be quite influential – even with pretty cynical politicians. So thx for adding to the list.

    Anyone else?

  21. James, you completely miss the point as usual. In relation to Stephen, I pointed out quite reasonably that anti-economic rationalists generally only have themselves to blame for being sidelined in the debate because of their general failure to go beyond emotion and ideology and develop thoughtful alternative policies. If you think that too tough to swallow then you had better not read Paul Krugman (great on economics less impressive when he verges into politics).

    On Iraq, again you and others choose to completely miss the main issue. Well-intentioned rational people can of course reach different positions on this issue. But unfortunately most critics of the war have completely lost the plot – the US got what it deserved on Sept 11, the insurgents are actually good guys or at least better than the bad guys the US and its allies, extremism is only a relatively minoe problem in Islam, even intervention in Afghanistan was wrong, and so on and so on etc etc etc. When so-called social progressives continue to talk it is inevitable that the right dominate and in many ways undoubtedly desirable but then again people like you could take up knitting or something and let more rational individuals on the left have a change for once and then the right might not find it so easy.

  22. With respect Michael, whatever the merits of your argument, it has only tangental relation to the current discussion.

  23. Bruces:

    Why did North Korea ever get a guernsey in the Axis Of Evil, anyway ?

    My suggested reasons in order of importance:

    1) North Korea is not presently under US direct or neo-colonial control and is not integrated into the US global economic framework. This is the only necessary precondition for inclusion in the Axis Of Evil.

    2) NK has a digusting human rights record. This makes inclusion in the AE plausible. This is, however, not a necessary precondition as propaganda could be invented to manufacture such claims if and when necessary. In this case it is not necessary.

    3) NK is developing Nuclear Weapons hence would be more difficult to control/invade/intimidate if succesful in completion of this program. This makes it more urgent to bring them under heel quickly.

    4) Inclusion of NK short-circuits criticism of the US as anti-Islamic.

    5) George Bush has a personal dislike for NK. GWNB is a crusader who believes he was appointed to his position by God to bring freedom to the world, especially the Middle East. But he has a special contempt for NK. This bumps them up the ‘to-do list’ of countries to be invaded when possible.

    5) NK is weak hence easy to defeat. A quick war is domestically very popular and gets the heat off the USA in international fora more quickly.

    6) Proximity of NK to China means that it makes a great location for establishment of bases to intimadate that nation.

    Tell me what you reckon.
    Happy to receive replies directly at craig[nospam]

  24. This comment is independent of previous ones. One supposes, despite the political divide, that Federal and State health authorities have developed common contingency planning for the potential bird flu pandemic. The WHO has issued a warning, sufficient for the British government to act to extent of developing a strategy to deal with the potential problems. I neither seen or heard reports to confirm that similar action has been taken here.

  25. Nicholas – another one to add to the list, which is a standout in my view, I should have thought of it earlier: no fault compensation. Under the present system laywers are major beneficiaries from compensation cases. The system produces large losses in welfare, often slow redress for injuries suffered, and inequities (those who can afford the best lawyers get the best payouts; some miss out altogether). Its been a desirable change for a long time (see eg the Woodhouse report). Coordinated action by the States/Territories is needed because otherwise there’d be jurisdictional problems, claimants trying to game the system by picking the one that suited them best, problems with accidents/injuries involving parties from more than one State, etc.

    Hope you are planning to aggregate any suggestions and actually get them drawn in to debate in some way!

    PS I don’t understand how burgess’ comments relate to any of this; I’m not sure if he’s lumping me in his category of “anti economic rationalists” given that I’m more frequently accused of the opposite and giving too much credit to micro reform for improving economic performance [disclosure: I was in a past life responsible for a lot of micro reform especially in agriculture – eg helping convince govt. to end the absurd wool floor price scheme – so you’d expect me to say this…]

  26. On a completely different topic on tuesday night I used to watch CSI as I iron. however I now finish earlier and I have grown tired of the series.
    The great things about the CSI genres is the WHO music as it’s introduction comes in.
    The latest has the best who song , namely Baba O’Riley,.
    both my seven year old boy and I ove the song.
    One reason to see the opening credits of the series.

  27. I am just wondering why we bother haveing an RBA Board when the only player seems to be Macfarlane. The other RBA members obviously are in a posiition of unquestioning fealty to the boss and the non-executive members are so hopelessly conflicted by their continuing commercial (and in most cases political) involvements.

    Indeed given their scant economic training and the fact that they must be so busy with their day to day activities they cannot possibly be giving their RBA board duties the attention that they deserve and thus Macfarlane is able to implement whatever bee is in his bonnet.

    It is interesting to contrast the quality of the members of US Fed Board with that of the RBA board.

  28. Real men don’t iron, we just let everything wrinkle as God meant. That also applies to facial hair, although I am beginning to receive comments and may eventually yield to social pressure to have it trimmed.

  29. Albeross

    While there is some merit to your proposition, it is difficult to argue tha they have been doing a bad job over the last decade.

  30. In the light of the recent spate of pro-democracy moves in the ME I am interested in the opinions of those persons,like Pr Q , who from the start opposed the Iraq war. Have they had any second thoughts?
    FWIW I still think the Iraq War was a bad idea, given the massive costs and uncertain benefits. I am sure that a wise statesman could have put $300 billion to more good by directly prosecuting the GWOT or by financing humanitarian causes.
    But if Iraq war begins an E European style wave of civil reform then I would be prepared to revise my views (again).

  31. A fair question, Jack.

    I believed at the time, and still do, that the best any of us could have done two years ago was make a balance of probabilities estimate, on the basis of highly incomplete information, about which course of action would lead to the least harm being done in Iraq itself, in the region, and in terms of the likely harmful impact of COTW unilateralism on global peace and stability. On this basis, and after having had a long look at arguments from the pro-war left (Nick Cohen, Pamela Bone, etc.) I opposed the war and still believe I was right to have done so. I don’t think I should second-guess myself on the basis of hindsight, especially as the chains of events which could lead to positive developments in the Middle East have a life of their own rather than simply being the inevitable or intended effects of the COTW invasion.

  32. Yes, we now face a great danger that the neo-cons will re-energise their flagging fortunes by dragooning any positive historical change in the region to serve as proof of their revolutionary thesis.

    For me the greatest reason to oppose that fully optional war was that the attendant & inevitable slaughter of innocents – civilian and military – was premeditated murder. The highly uncertain benefits of their deaths which we now haggle about could never justify the extremity of that wrong.

    It makes me despair that their deaths seem over time to become just historical “stuff that happens”.

  33. wbb — 4/3/2005 @ 4:06 pm shows why the anti-war Left still have a lot of learning to do:

    we now face a great danger that the neo-cons will re-energise their flagging fortunes by dragooning any positive historical change in the region to serve as proof of their revolutionary thesis.

    This comment is a diagnostic of what infuriated me about the anti-war Left: the instinctive shift into a partisan crouch, damning policies & processes by their party political source.
    wbb appears to think the “greatest danger” to global secrurity is a few loud-mouthed
    “conservative” intellectuals having a bit of a triumphalist crow at the anti-war Lefts expense.
    I do not know what the democracy revolution in the ME will bring. It may turn militant like the post-Bastille Franks or moderate like the post-Berlin Wall Slavs. And I still think that the war does not meet the utilitiarian cost-benefit test, not to speak of the humanitarian issues.
    But the ME democratic revolution is big enough to justify analysis on it own merits rather than being demeaned by the petty standards of spiteful chatterers.

    For me the greatest reason to oppose that fully optional war was that the attendant & inevitable slaughter of innocents – civilian and military – was premeditated murder.blockquote>
    This implies that the many Baathist and jihadist casualties are “innocent”, which is a bit of a stretch. By wbb’s standard any discretionary violence done in the service of promoting democratic polities is murder. So is wbb now saying that Washington, Jefferson et al were all murderers?

    It makes me despair that their deaths seem over time to become just historical “stuff that happens�.

    The same argument was made by the pro-war party in respect of the Hussein regime (retrospectivley towards Saddam, prospectively towards Uday et al). Why didnt wbb complain about that type of world-historical callousness?

  34. Paul Norton — 4/3/2005 @ 2:05 pm shows an empirical rather than ideological cast of mind:

    I don’t think I should second-guess myself on the basis of hindsight,

    This is fair enough, althoug Paul might consider the implications of his position, which is essentially conservative, rather than constructive, in its political valence.
    The anti-war party were in favour of a (default) conservative position. History shows that reform, rather than revolution, tends to be better, esp when large violence is contemplated.
    The onus was on the pro-war party to justify any departure from proper procedure and calculate the consequences of their destructive-constructive policies. This they (incl. the present writer) failed to do, esp in key matters of the building a multicultural Iraqi state and dealing with the Islamic nature of Iraqi society. Not to mention the numerous errors of the CPA in execution.

    the chains of events which could lead to positive developments in the Middle East have a life of their own rather than simply being the inevitable or intended effects of the COTW invasion.

    This is not a poor statement of the late disturbances in the ME. For one thing, Bush did intend to promote democracy, as a scrutiny of the publication of the revised National Security doctrine (2002) reveals.
    Bush has, since 911, been a strong promoter of democracy in Afghanistan, Palestine, Iraq, Saudi Arabia Lebanon, Egypt and Syria. And these states have all made a marked shift towards popular rule in the past three years. Perhaps they might have done so in any case, but certainly not with as much institutional speed or ideological confidence.
    The only other major Middle Eastern pro-democracy movement that was pre-dated Bush and had its own autonomy was in Iran. This movement was more strongly supported by Bush (Axis of Evil) than by any other world leader.

    FWIW, I think that the staggering cost of the war in blood and treasure are too large a thing when set against uncertain improvements in political process. Moderate, rather than militant, democracy-promotion by the US would likely have achieved similar civil progress with a lower cost.

  35. < >

    Supposedly, the “Axis of Evil” originally had only two members – Iran and Iraq.

    However when the draft of Bush’s SOTU speech was circulated inside the White house it was suggested that a third member be added to bolster the rhetorical parallel with the World War II axis.

    Syria, Libya and Sudan were all candidates for the third spot but were rejected out of a fear of appearing excessively and exclusively anti-arab.

    Burma or Cuba could jsut have easily been the axis’ third member.

  36. With regard to democracy in the middle east:

    There have been repeated false dawns for democracy in the middle east – such as the free elections in Algeria in the 1990’s which were annulled when the governing party lsot.

    I don’t believe that there is innate reason to assuem democracy CAN’T succeed i nthe middel east but history is littered both there and elsewhere with many brave but failed attempts to establish democracies.

    People inclined to naive optimism about the future of Iraqi deomcracy might want to consider the post-war history of south Korea where it took almost 40 years to establish a reasonably stable democratic regime.

  37. Over time the spread of democracy seems like a pretty inevitable trend. The issue is whether the spread of democracy will be civil evolutionary like Georgian England, or militant revolutionary like Jacobin France. The Arabs look like they fancy a few riots and rebellions but, who knows, they might find their Attaturk.

  38. Thx Steven,

    Yes, I’ll bring these together – but no hurry – all the ideas are up here. 🙂 I’ve been trying to draw some attention to the idea. Ric Simes was very successful in putting on a conference in Canberra on liquidating the bond market. It was very influential in stopping it happen. I’ve suggested doing something on the states all being governed by a single party as a worthwhile idea for a conference, but though it seemed like a good idea at the time, we couldn’t think of all that many things on the list. On your suggestion of a compensation scheme, I reckon that would be pretty hard – but pessimism on what was possible was where you came in – not me! 🙂

  39. JS, you’d better take a longer look at history before you start talking “inevitable trend”. What’s going on right now seems to me to have serious parallels with what happened between the time of the Delian League and Rome’s hegemony over the Greek city states. That was a prelude to another inevitable process, the discrediting of democracy as being inherently vulnerable to capture and people’s acceptance of “strong man” leadership as the only alternative to chaos.

    All this leapt at me early on, because I had the background. It isn’t hindsight from recent developments but from ancient ones; recent ones are just confirmation. All that’s “inevitable” about today’s “progress” is like printing money in a collapsing currency, as long as people still trust what it used to be.

  40. Jack:

    You mean democracy will be introduced by a military dictator who massacres millions of non-arabs, suppresses religious and political opponents, builds a massive and hugely inefficient state-owned industrial sector and entrenches military rule for the next six decades?

  41. Comment #42 by Ian Gould — 7/3/2005 @ 6:22 pm

    You mean democracy will be introduced by a military dictator who massacres millions of non-arabs, suppresses religious and political opponents, builds a massive and hugely inefficient state-owned industrial sector and entrenches military rule for the next six decades?

    I think that Hussein was a lost cause to both majority democacy and minority civility. But he might have been succeeded by someone more like Attaturk – a civilised leader. This was my actual point.

  42. Ken Parish has a good suggestion relating to my theme in this thread. Commenting on our most senior lawyers’ decision to exempt themselves from the standards of legal liability for negligence to which they hold all other professions, he says.

    I can’t actually think of much to add to Ackland’s excellent article, except a string of adjectives like disgraceful, arrogant, self-serving, cynical, obtuse, unaccountable and downright disgusting. It’s another one of those days when I’m ashamed to be a lawyer.

    Actually, I can think of something to add. Why don’t the state and territory Labor governments band together and enact co-ordinated legislation to abolish lawyers’ immunity from suit? You wouldn’t hold your breath waiting for the Howard government to enact similar laws, but 90% or so of litigation takes place under state law anyway. It would put pressure on Howard, and would be bound to be highly popular with the electorate. Write to your local State or Territory MP today and demand it.

    Any other ideas?

  43. NG, that isn’t the position. The general position is, professional ethics only require someone to do as another member of the same profession would.

    There isn’t just a free pass for lawyers, doctors get one too. There is case law back to at least the ’50s on this, and it flows through as binding or persuasive precedent from one common law jurisdiction to another.

Comments are closed.