The end of Fabian socialism in Australia ?

Reader Tristan Ewins has sent in a guest post, regarding a proposal that the Australian Fabian society remove references to socialism as an objective. While, for a range of reasons, I prefer to describe my perspective as social democratic rather than socialist, I agree with Tristan that this is an unfortunate step, which severs the society from the intellectual tradition that gave it birth and that still represents the best hope for the future.
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Vanstone again

I was sent this sad story of the bloody-mindedness of DIMA under Minister Amanda Vanstone (not that her predecessor Philip Ruddock was any better). Also, last week I read this story of Vanstone using confidential files for her own (political) gain, an offence for which hundreds of public servants have rightly been sacked or disciplined.

I don’t know if it’s by coincidence or design but Howard has been very successful in putting leading so-called ‘wets’ into positions where they are forced to bankrupt themselves morally in order to succeed, or even survive politically. Vanstone is a prime example. She has spent a decade in ministerial office, in which time she has done nothing creditable, and much that is discreditable or worse. Her reward has been a tenuous hold on a Cabinet position, with no serious prospect of promotion to the inner circle.

Update The latest issue of the Monthly reports a number of cases of refugees deported rom Australia, and subsequently murdered in the countries from which they fled. No doubt, as Vanstone asserts, this was all unfortunate coincidence.

Five years on

Five years after the terrorist attacks on New York, the best that can be said about our situation is that it could be worse. The response from our elected leaders, and particularly the Bush Administration, has been comprehensively bungled, or worse, undermined by the pursuit of private and political advantage, and pre-existing political agendas, at the expense of a concerted attack on those who are trying to kill us. Incompetence and worse has been rife at every level from the tactical (the failure to catch bin Laden when he was surrounded) to the operational (the various stages of the Iraq occupation, starting with a Provisional Administration hired from Republican job message boards) the strategic (the whole Iraq war) and the moral (the many crimes that have blurred the difference between us and the terrorists). All of these things have squandered our resources, while acting as a recruiting banner for our enemies.

The only thing that has prevented things being even worse is the gratuitous bloodthirstiness of our enemies. Brutal attacks in Muslim countries, executions of innocent people shown on video, and the continuous suicide-terror attacks on ordinary people going about their daily business have shown their true nature, and discredited radical Islamism among many who remain deeply hostile to the US and the Bush Administration. As I mentioned a year ago, in countries like Indonesia , the Iraq war has been highly unpopular, but the great achievement of JI has been to make themselves even more unpopular.
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Nicholas Gruen will be talking on social production and open source in Melbourne on Wednesday. It’s for the Fabian society (impressed that Race Mathews has kept this going).


“New Models of Social Production: Open Source and its economic and social significance.�

Meeting details are 6 for 6:30pm to 8pm, Wednesday, 13 September, in Meeting Room 1, Trades Hall (Victoria Street Entrance), Cnr Lygon and Victoria Streets, Carlton. Australian Fabian Society members $6, non-members $8, concession $3.

It sounds fascinating. I’ll chase the paper and report on it if I get time.

The end of the Nats

Although the shambolic performance of the Liberal party dominated the election campaign in Queensland, the longer-term implications of the result remain, paradoxically enough, quite good for the Libs. The most important long-term outcome of Saturday’s vote was that, although the One Nation vote finally disappeared (the one remaining MP is effectively an independent), the Nationals picked up almost none of it. Back in 1995, the last pre-Hanson state election, the Nationals got 26.3 per cent of the vote, well ahead of the Libs on 22.7. In 2006, the Nats got 17.3 per cent and the Libs 20.2 per cent.

The only reason the Nats won more seats than the Libs is that their vote is concentrated in a handful of rural seats west of the Great Dividing Range. There’s no reason to think they can ever go much beyond this. Of the coastal seats they held going in to the election, Gaven went back to Labor, and they suffered big swings in several of the others, making them very marginal. The only coastal area where they did at all well was the Sunshine Coast, where the special factor of the Traveston Dam ran against Labor, and the Nats regained Gympie from on-again off-again independent Elise Roberts.

In the absence of a merger, Labor is safe for another two terms. Before the Coalition can get back in, the Libs need to win enough seats to make them the senior partner.


Early and often, used to be the motto, but I was certainly glad I only had to vote once today, after one of the least edifying campaigns I can recall. I will certainly be glad to hear no more of the phrase “can’t govern Queensland”.

There’s a sense in which the prevalence of negative campaigning shouldn’t be surprising. In a situation where both sides of politics have converged on a rather watery version of social democracy, based primarily on service delivery, the only real issue is who is better qualified to deliver those services. And, a lot of the time, it’s going to be easier to demonstrate the faults of the other side in this respect than the virtures of your own.

Anyway, it’s all over bar the counting now. With luck, that’ll be finished in time for Doctor Who.

Update It was over, for all practical purposes, with heaps time to spare. The ABC computers called the result at about 6:50, and they were pretty much spot-on. Still we went through the full ritual of a complete count, post-mortem and call of the board. An undeservedly easy win for the government, but a well-deserved loss for the Coalition.

Recently on the RSMG Blog

Lots more interesting stuff on the Risk and Sustainable Management Group blog including

Giving ecosystem valuation a bad name.

Wetlands, rivers and floodplains are worth around 20 times the value of agricultural production in the MDB (estimated at around $9 billion). Or 25% of the Australian GDP.$187 billion is clearly an impressive figure, considering the wetlands, rivers and floodplains of the MDB are a small part of the continent. But it is also a very suspicious one.

River Symposium

The River Symposium is underway in Brisbane with the theme ‘Managing rivers with climate change and expanding populations’.

John is making a presentation today (Wednesday) at 1:30 titled ‘Responding to climate change in the Murray Darling Basin’.

Private waste water ?

Reader Chris Dodds has alerted me to this PM&C discussion paper on potential private involvement in waste water. There’s a lot of interesting information, including discussion of issues like the role of third-party access, which is central to the continuing dispute between Sydney Water and Services Sydney, a would-be private entrant.

How best to implement environmental flows

The Australian on Tuesday and Wednesday mention a project just launched to answer the question of how best to use water for environmental purposes. Working out the best way to use the water will help decide how much money is required to purchase water (as a portfolio of water rights) for a given environmental target.

Alternative energy for Australia.

Today the UQ Sustainability Seminar Series, run by the Division of Environmental Engineering, hosted Frank Barram, Managing Director of Integrated Energy Services, on the topic “Applications, benefits and limitations of alternative energy in Australia. An economic perspective�.

Report – Rural Water Use and the Environment: The Role of Market Mechanisms

“They (Environmental Managers) need to enter markets to source water and to access the full range of water and water-related products on the same terms and conditions as other market participants.� XXII

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