Weekend reflections

Weekend Reflections is on again. Please comment on any topic of interest (civilised discussion and no coarse language, please). Feel free to put in contributions more lengthy than for the Monday Message Board or standard comments.

36 thoughts on “Weekend reflections

  1. In dedicating a soup kitchen for the needy, Ruddy feels the need to bring Israel into it, then add a bit of ALP history …mix it all up with water. What the man will do for someone else’s fund raiser, or maybe he’s just thinking ahead. Incidently isn’t this the Feldman family that was recently at each other’s throats in court? Ruddy should tread carefully.

  2. I picked up this tidbit from The Oil Drum; the Iraqi parliament is considering letting foreign oil companies dominate their oil industry advisory council
    The state oil company would no longer have automatic rights to key areas. Some oil industry insiders believe Iraq now has the world’s largest untapped reserves, bigger than Saudi Arabia or Russia, hence the term ‘the great prize’.

    If some of the locals get slightly resentful our boys can explain it to them.

  3. “Cheney leaves open military option against Iran
    ‘All options are still on the table,’ vice president says in Australia”

    My vice Presidunce…take him please!

    OK, you bloked’im now you own’im!

    Perhaps you could sell him to New Zealand to feed that giant squid?

  4. Megan,

    What, do you really expect Oz media to start talking about the prostitution of our political leaders at Jewish fundraisers? Next thing they’ll be trying to explain why Australia never votes against Israeli atrocities in the UN!

    I mean, it’s not like there’s anything new in either of those stories. How do you think we got involved with Iraq anyway?

    Move on folks. Nothing to see here. Not unless you want to end up friendless, alone and outcast like Antony Loewenstein.

  5. Crossposted from LP

    Well it didn’t take long for the first carbon scam to turn up.

    Radio national Friday afternoon comment show enthused over a (Sydey based I think) business that was offering a fart atonement for pets service.

    For $20 per year (per pet) this person claims to cancel the greenhouse gas methane gas emission from family pets farts, and even people. The logic goes that farts contain mostly Methane gas which contributes to global warming. So a simple but positive thing that people can do for the environment is to have their own and their pets farts exponged.

    This would be a cute joke if it were not aimed at little old ladies and their bank accounts, not to mention being incorrect in its logic.

    The fact is that farts are environmentally carbon neutral. True, methane is a potent green house gas. It is however short lived in the atmosphere because it reacts with ozone to become a less potent green house gas CO2 and H2O. It is formed by the breakdown of sugars in the gut. These sugars come from food that we eat, and that food is essentially green ie grown yesterday. So unless your farting is a product of drinking petrol or eating coal then it is environmentally neutral. In fact our breathing converts those same sugars into energy so that we can live. If people are to be guilt riden about farting then they should also stop breathing. More fool the New Zealand government for attempting to impose a fart tax on farmers.

    What do these people do to clean farts from the air? The ABC was remiss in informing us of this part of the service. But it could simply be planting shrubs and trees in their back yard and letting the grass grow long in the block next door.
    Or in other words nothing at all. SCAM.

    Be ready to be blown away by the audacity of carbon frauds as they come to light.

  6. BilB

    Alexander Downer says we should get a carbon credit for uranium exports. That way it doesn’t matter so much if we chop down the forests. I’m sure Bob Brown will see this.

  7. Heaven help us. Sad to say but, in principle, he is correct (except for the forest part). But the credit can only be for the nett energy yield. That would make it difficult to calculate considering that the material is used in a broad range of reactor types. Did he make the forest comment or is that your poke?

  8. In regard to BilB’s comments, we should be responsible for the net final ouput of greenhouse gases. So it does matter that the final output partially consists of methane which has more greenhouse impact per carbon atom. But one should take off the co2 which was removed in producing the food, but one also needs to add in the greenhouse gases produced by the agricultural sector in producing the food (and the greenhouse impact of transporting it). So its not simple to calculate a greenhouse impact, which is one reason that a tax is a good idea as it very simply distributes the greenhouse costs throughout the economy.

  9. Johng,

    The transport co2 is meant to be handled in the first instance by a carbon tax on fuel, and then in the second by biofuel replacement to what ever level is possible to achieve.
    The worst thing about methane, if my chemist friend is correct, is that it robs ozone from the atmosphere.

  10. I just heard Shelley Gare, author of Triumph of the Airheads, citing this blog as a source of definitional inspiration about what management consultants actually do. On Radio National’s Ockham’s Razor commentary program, it was. Does this confirm RN’s reputation as a hive of leftism, or this blog’s rep, or both? Perhaps Prof Q should bring in some image consultants to find out.

  11. It’s sobering to hear pundit after pundit and pollster after pollster, from both sides, opine that despite Labor’s record breaking polling the Coalition will win the next election. “The numbers are ridiculous and not to be believed”, “the numbers are in the wrong seats, or the wrong states”, “it’s still a honeymoon”, “remember Latham”, “it’s a long time till the election”, “these are not actual voting intentions, just a safe expression of dissatisfaction”, “no-one has made up their mind yet”, “Rudd is a fresh face”, “people are giving Rudd a look to see how how he goes”. Etc. etc.
    Much as I don’t want to believe them, I fear they are right. People are uncomfortable with Iraq and Hicks. But that won’t determine the vote. I contend that people are just about as ethical and compassionate as they can afford to be. Australia is an aspirational culture. This is where Latham blew it so badly. People want to be able to send their kids to private schools. He told them that was a bad thing and he’d make it harder for them. In the secrecy of the voting space people will count the money. Only if both sides offer similar opportunities to achieve their aspirations will the questions of fairness and decency, of Hicks, Baxter, Iraq and workplace agreements, enter the equation.
    This is where Howard will hit. Not this time on terror. He’s discredited on that. He’s already trying to even the ground on global warming. He’s trying to defuse Hicks. He will test Labor credibility on financial management. And just before the election he will hit the pocket book with some of that lovely surplus.

  12. Am I the only one sick to death of the term “aspirational” as applied to voters etc?

    Everyone has “aspirations” of a sort. In this sort of usage is is pandering to the narrow and greedy “me myself and I” attitude that Kevin Rudd identified in his first speech in parliament after becoming leader.

    It is more correctly a case of “their aspirations and ours”.

    Like many Australians, I would hope a majority, I aspire to seeing a better society where the increasing divisions fomented and encouraged by the Howard govt. One where parents won’t feel under pressure to put their kids into a private school because the state education systems are crumbling under financial pressures. One where the needy can get proper dental care within a reasonable time frame. One where Australia won’t be dragged into wars of dubious legality on a pretext of lies. etc etc ad nauseum.

    Whereas Latham pandered to the “aspirationals” (in the worst sense), Rudd challenged them with a better vision of Australia.

    Rudd concluded his speech: “So the battlelines are drawn in this great battle of ideas between us. In the 10 days or so ahead, when we leave this place, I will be travelling the country, taking this message out. This is not just a battle for ideas; it is a battle on the ground as well. I say to those opposite: we intend to prevail in this battle of ideas, on the ground, right through to the next election. We intend to prevail.”

    This is not 2004 revisited and Kevin Rudd is no Mark Latham.

  13. Kevin Rudd’s battle of ideas must be fought out nightly over the family dinner table, according to this item on his wife’s employment placement network. I wonder whether the “WorkDirections” network is careful to avoid sending clients to jobs requiring an AWA?

  14. Yeah, sorry, aspiration means “hope”. The society we live in is predominantly materialistic. For better or worse. Not all of us. Some of us think that quality of relationships has more value than a plasma screen. Some even think that making a difference is more satisfying than owning the latest mobile phone. Some of us. But a majority of us, especially those with less than the rest, would like more money to buy things. Many of us think that lots of stuff brings lots of happiness. So, many of us “hope” that we can become less stressed by debt, and even dream of lifestyles that include white sandy beaches, pina coladas palm trees, private jets and not having to work. Many of us “hope” to send our children to private schools where they can supposedly get a better start in life, while providing us with a valuable status symbol – a child at a private school.
    So while we may not agree with it, the “lower socio-economic” voters, in Australia at least, set little store in the honour of poverty and hardship. They tend to want, more fiercely even than those in “higher socio-economic” groups, a leg-up, a shot at the top. The last thing they want to hear is someone telling them that they should know their place or that hardship is honourable.
    What I am saying is that this needs to be understood. You can’t bring the people with you unless you start by going where they are. I don’t care how Rud does it. I think he shouldn’t throw money at us, the way governments have always offered tax cuts. Perhaps he can show us a way to make it possible to pull ourselves up, provide education funding that injects superior quality into the public system. As long as he does something to even the playing field so that the argument at the end of the year really can be about fairness, compassion, justice, decency, etc.

  15. Re #3 Hermit’s comment about changes to Iraqui oil rules – see “The new Iraqi Oil:Leaked” at Jarrar Raed’s blog – he describes it as a ‘catastrophic law’ – but it’s probably what the Amerikan’s invaded for anyway – now they’ve (nearly!) got it – they’ll probably want to go home soon:-)

  16. Graham,

    You make a good point, albeit an unpopular one. I think this is where true leadership is required.

    Rudd should be holding up a mirror to Australians and saying not only “Look, this is what we have become under Howard,” but also, “There is a better way.”

    Rudd will not be able to defeat the Liberals with economic bribery alone, even if there is another rate rise or two before the elections. He needs to offer a vision of a better society, where people can enjoy economic prosperity WITHOUT the pangs of a guilty conscience.

    We as a nation need to go back and think about what we have lost. Dick Cheney told John Howard that the whole world was proud of what Australia has done in Iraq. I don’t know what world Darth Cheney lives in, but it is obviously not this one.

  17. Bemused, I am constantly bemused by the claim that Howard’s Government has caused dividions in society. I don’t feel particularly divided from anybody else. I disagree with many of the policy platforms of the ALP – does that mean their policies are divisive??

    Last time I checked I am pretty sure that State Governments were responsible for the delivery of education and health (which includes dental). How come the Federal government is the only party responsible for th situation when the State ALP governments are delivering the services???? Now, that’s bemusing!!!!

  18. Graham – where is your evidence that parents of private school kids send them to those schools as a status symbol?? In my experience it is because they want a superior educational and behavioural result compared to the government system.

  19. State schools are the indoctrination centres for mediocrity. They remove the bright students and put them in selective schools.(instead of competing for them) This gives those left behind an education in mediocrity; where it is implied that it is OK not to put in any effort. This is due to the non existence of comparative assessments of students or teacher’s standards. This leads them to believe society owes them a favour,(like free education) hence our ever expanding welfare state.

    Graham- If people had a choice they wouldn’t send their children to a state school.

  20. Razor,
    Howard is renowned for his wedge politics which is just the visible tip of the iceberg so to speak. Try victimisation of refugees, social welfare recipients etc. for more examples.

    State Govts do deliver some health services (public hospitals) and have a primary responsibility for education. Howard axed the Commonwealth Dental scheme after coming to office in 1996 if memory serves me correctly. The Fed Govt also operates Medicare and is in a constant state of tension with the states over cost shifting.

    Although States run education systems the Fed Govt provides considerable funding to education and arguably too much of this goes to high end private schools.

  21. What’s bemusing is that Fiscal Federalism in this country has now become so lopsided. Through successive (biased and shortsighted) decisions by the High Court, the Federal government now collects most of the tax revenue, whereas the States have to do most of the spending on important things (such as health care and education).

  22. Dear Bemused,

    Terribly sorry for assuming that the ALP supports the general basis of controlling our borders, in fact wants a dedicated Coast Guard to stop illegal entrants etc.

    I suppose we should just let everybody who wants to come and live in Australia come on over – don’t need to apply or prove your identity or anything, just come on down!.

    And while we are at it lets raise the rates of all welfare benfits and allow anybody who wants to just stay on welfare for ever – how does that sound – much nicer and less divisive. Perhaps we should ask Kevin and Maxine what they think of those ideas.

  23. alpaca, the Fiscal Federalism you refer to has been more than adequately compensated for with the GST. It would have been a lot better if the Democrats (good riddance) hadn’t buggered it up so much.

  24. pseudonym (23) I think that’s what I was trying to say, that at least a majority of people would send their kids to private schools if they could afford it. It’s not, in my opinion money well spent, though. The teaching is not particularly better and often the classrooms no better resourced than some. It’s like a Mercedes. You pay a premium for the badge but don’t get that much more car. But you have to spend your $100,000 to find this out.
    I suspect, also, that some people send their kids to private schools to save them from the “others”, the rough people, that go to the public system.
    Some research has shown that private school students tend to do better at school but significantly less well at university than publicly-educated students.
    I’ve been around a lot of schools in work I’ve done and I’m clear that the quality of education depends on the quality of the individual teachers. The quality of the school’s learning and social culture depends almost entirely on the principal. Of the best two schools I have ever been in one was a state high school and the other private. How I judged was by the quality of the relationships among students and between students and teachers – whether learning was being nurtured and valued by everyone in the school.
    I would never ever send a child to any catholic school again.
    The best teacher I met, in twelve years, was at Menai Public. She was extraordinary but left the year after I met her because she couldn’t take the system any more.

  25. Gee Razor, you sure have that straw man debating trick off pat!

    I don’t know of anyone who argues for open borders on your model. In fact in some respects they are too porous as, for example, there is too little customs inspection of shipping containers.

    All I and others would seek is an efficient and humane processing of asylum seekers according to international agreements to which Australia is a party.

    All Howard does with all his gratuitous cruelty and theatrics is waste money on an inefficient and expensive system that in the end admits most asylum seekers.

  26. Graham,

    IMHO a better analogy would be like deciding to use a Mini Minor or a Mercedes bus to transport a large group of people from point A to point B. Both vehicles will do it, but one will do it faster, safer and more efficiently than the other.

    “Some research has shown that private school students tend to do better at school but significantly less well at university than publicly-educated students.�

    What research is that? It sounds like some disinformation you’d hear on “The O’Reilly Factor; he often says “some people say bla bla bla…… “

    “The quality of the school’s learning and social culture depends almost entirely on the principal� and “the quality of education depends on the quality of the individual teachers.�

    Catholic and private schools communities have the autonomy to hire and fire principals and staff, as opposed to the state system that has staff dictated by a central bureau. If the quality of education is dependent on the principal and teachers would not it be an advantage to have this autonomy?

  27. In response to Razor (post #27):
    I disagree. The GST replaced the existing taxes that were present in 2000, but not the excise powers that were taken from the states. Also, the GST revenue is administered through the Commonwealth Grants Commission, which is (theoretically) under Federal control.

    On the one hand, I can see that it’s probably in the best interests of business and the public at large to have a single tax collection system, but on the other it makes for poor political economy to have the states lined up outside Parliament house with their collection plates.

  28. ” to have a single tax collection system”..”but on the other it makes for poor political economy to have the states lined up..

    The easy solution to that problem is to abolish the states.

  29. alpaca – all the GST revenue goes to the states – there is a little argy bargy how it is divvied up, but it all goes to the states. Prior to the GST the States had no certainty of getting a cut of the Federal pie – now they do. It would have been bigger if the Democrats (good riddance) hadn’t buggered it up, as usual.

    Wot Tony G said!!! The States are an anachronism from a colonialist age – I would have thought the lefties would have given their left nut/ovary to get rid of a colonial relic, but few seem to have the passion for that fight – they’d rather see the Coaltion lose in Iraq, allowing Al Queda to use Iraq as a base, than fight for that something as rational as reducing the tiers of government.

  30. Pseudonym (30):
    Public school students perform well at university
    6 April 2005

    A study released today by Monash University researchers Ian Dobson and Eric Skuja has found students from public schools outperform those from private schools when they reach university.

    Mr Dobson said a survey of 12,500 first year Monash University students revealed public school students who left Year 12 with lower marks than their private school rivals overtook them academically at university.

    “Once on a level playing field, students from non-selective government schools tend to do much better,” he said.

    “Private school students have an advantage at exam time in Year 12 because they have access to more resources. However, this advantage evaporates when they reach university.”

    The report found that once at university, public school students performed better academically in their first year compared with private school students who received similar ENTER scores.

    “We found that, on average, government school students performed about five percentage points better than students from independent schools,” Mr Dobson said.

    The study confirmed that private school students generally received higher Year 12 marks than those from the public system but showed that any edge gained was lost in the first year of a bachelor degree.

    In some areas some principals do have the power to choose at least some of their teachers, and to reject some others but I think you are right that schools should be able to choose teachers for themselves, although I’m not sure what would happen to the teachers nobody wants – there are few enough to go around as it is. The problem for a parent is that in the state systems with the high turnover in both teachers and principals performance is uneven. A great school can become a disaster area with a simple change of principal or a couple of teachers, while at private schools these things tend to be more stable. You can predict to some extent what you are getting for your child. It’s just that what you are getting is hugely overpriced for the frankly mediocre quality they provide.

  31. Graham,

    IMHO the study undertaken by Dobson and Skuja provides very little if any conclusive evidence about comparing student performance.
    It should be noted that Dobson has a history of undertaking commissioned reports for the Victorian Education Department, so the independence of the report should be questioned.
    The report isn’t freely available for critical or pier review. To obtain a copy a $16 fee has to be paid.

    “We found that, on average, government school students performed about five percentage points better than students from independent schools,” Mr Dobson said. Performing five percentage points better ONLY in their FIRST YEAR is hardly a variance at all and could be put down to a statistical aberration. The parameters used (which are not freely publicised or transparent) could easily distort to a variance of 5%.

    Meaningful and clear indicators of performance are clearly lacking from the study. The study is conspicuous by its omissions. It fails to address issues that are clear indicators of performance. Like…

    • The percentage of private school students that enter university compared to the percentage of public school students.
    • The percentage of private school students that complete university compared to the percentage of public school students.
    • The percentage of private school students that enter the more onerous courses compared to the percentage of public school students.
    • The percentage of private school students that graduate with a degree of excellence compared to the percentage of public school students.

    I am not advocating these indicators will favour one system over the other, but at least they would be the basis for an informed debate.
    I doubt if the teachers federation or the state education departments will be commissioning a study utilising these realistic parameters?

    I agree with your statement:
    “It’s just that what you are getting is hugely overpriced�
    It certainly is when a public school student gets $10,000 per year of total government funding and a private student only gets $5,000. The private school parent who is taxed at an equal rate, has to further subsidise public education by coughing up an extra $5000 per year, just to ensure equal educational funding for his or her child.

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