No True Scotsman

It was not surprising that the group recently arrested and charged with plotting to kill police officers, then those mourning at their funeral using IEDs have nowhere in the mainstream media been referred to as “terrorists” or even “terror suspects”. After all, they aren’t Muslims. But, that’s not enough for the political right. Apparently, on the “No True Scotsman” principle, it’s also unfair to refer them as “Christians“.

Water, water everywhere

There’s been a lot happening in water policy lately, and for once, most of the news is good. Most importantly, it’s been raining, a lot. The total volume of the recent rains has been estimated at around 6000 Gigalitres. Even after diversions, evaporation, absorption by the soil, refilling of water tables and so on, there will be somewhere between 600 and 1000 GL to flow down the Murray and stave off the disaster threatening the Lower Lakes, as well as many upstream ecosystems.

Meanwhile, the Rudd government’s decision to bite the bullet and start buying water from irrigators willing to sell has been thoroughly vindicated. The money has been a huge benefit to farmers keen to move out of agriculture, or from irrigated agriculture to dryland, and has done a lot to soften the impact of the drought. Most recently, a couple of irrigation districts have voted to sell en masse with a resulting saving in the cost of irrigation channels and other infrastructure. In a situation where too much water had been allocated to irrigation, and where (despite the current rain) there is likely to be less in the future, this is a necessary part of the adjustment process.
Read More »

The rising generation

We just returned from Sydney where we saw our first grandchild, James, now two weeks old. (I’ll skip all the doting grandparent stuff, but other grandfathers and grandmothers can fill it in for themselves). It’s striking to think that he could easily be around in 2100 and, given plausible advances in medical technology, well beyond that.

When we (that is, middle-aged and older people) talk about the effects (good and bad) of our actions on “future generations”, it’s worth remembering that young people now alive will experience those effects long after we are gone.

Abbott’s Bingle

Having just watched the media tear down their former darling, Lara Bingle (I tried to avoid it, but omnipresence defeated me), it seems likely we’ll now see the same with Tony Abbott.

The most common comparison has been between Abbott and Mark Latham, but we’ve seen plenty of examples of the celebrity style of reporting applied to rising politicians – Bronwyn Bishop and John Elliott were prime examples.

Celebrity politics has a well-established story arc – the fresh face, not scared to say what they think, with off-the-wall new ideas is built up until everyone is on the bandwagon. At that point, the only new angle points down, to the feet of clay. The alpha wolf in the journalistic pack is the one who can pick this moment to turn. Then the rest follow and before you know it, yesterdays fresh face is today’s wet-behind-the ears, authentic becomes aggressive, create ideas become a sign of flakiness. (sorry for all the mixed metaphors – it’s impossible to write this stuff any other way).

My guess is that Tony Abbott’s performance at the Press Club marks the turning point in the celebrity narrative. His bungle on maternity leave and the attacks from Keating and Costello set him up for the make or break performance in the movie. The fading star (Piaf, or maybe Rocky) has to go on stage and win over a hostile crowd. Instead, he ended up with rotten tomatoes.

To break away from meta-narrative for a moment, the debate reminded us that Abbott was an undistinguished health minister whose policy agenda, to the extent that there was a consistent one, went nowhere. His only contributions of any note were attempts to turn his personal prejudices into law. Now, he has no policy, and it’s a safe bet that anything he comes up with won’t stand up to even momentary scrutiny, as with his alternative to the ETS.


According to the Courier Mail

Anna Bligh has turned down an invitation to debate the opposition leader on her privatisation plans, arguing there would be no point outside an election year.

For chutzpah, this beats the classic illustration (the kid who murdered his parents then appealed for clemency on the grounds that he was an orphan). In case Premier Bligh has forgotten, 2009 was an election year, and she had ample opportunities to debate the proposal before the election.