There is a world market for maybe five computers …*

As has been true since 2010, our aspiring leaders seem to be determined to outdo each other in silliness this week. Since Julia Gillard will (with 90 per cent probability) be nothing more than a bad memory in a year’s time, while Tony Abbott will be an unavoidable reality, I’m going to ignore Gillard’s “Rob Peter to Pay Paul” aprroach to funding Gonski and talk about the National Broadband Network.

The Abbott-Turnbull proposal for a cutprice NBN has been an amazing success in clarifying issues that previously seemed too complex to be resolved. Until now, it’s been far from obvious how to assess the NBN – the complaint that we didn’t have a benefit cost analysis was obviously silly in the absence of any easy way of quantifying the benefits. But now that we’ve seen the alternative – a 25MBps network, dependent on Telstra’s failing copper network and non-existent goodwill, it’s obvious that the NBN is the only option that gives us any hope of keeping up with the steady growth in demand for information. The claim that individual subscribers can choose to upgrade to fibre-to-the-premises appears to have collapsed in the face of expert scrutiny. Instead, it seems, we’ll end up with lots of street-corner boxes, which will have to be ripped out and replaced wholesale when their inadequacy becomes apparent.

Given that he is going to win the coming election anyway, Abbott could greatly improve his chances of re-election in 2016 by admitting his mistake and going with the existing NBN plan, maybe with some cosmetic tweaks. As a bonus, from Abbott’s POV, Turnbull would have to eat a lot of humble pie.

The same is true for the other slogans on which he’s relied so far, like “Stop the Boats’ and “Axe the Tax”. Thanks to Labor’s implosion, he can afford to dump them now, and replace them with something more realistic – there’s no shame in changing policies before an election.

I don’t expect Abbott to take this unsolicited advice, but he could look at the cautionary lesson provided by Bligh, Gillard and NSW Labor among others, and consider carefully whether it’s better to take a few lumps now, or gain office on the basis of commitments that will prove a millstone, whether they are abandoned or adhered to.

[Comments are closed]

* I know, this quote attributed to Thomas J Watson is apocryphal, as is a similar one attributed to Bill Gates, but lots of similar statements have been made in reality, and they’ve all proved to be silly. For example, I can remember people saying in the early 80s that 8-bit address space of 64k (a double octet) were all we would ever need. Many more people said, well into the 1990s, that graphical interfaces were an unnecessary luxury and that personal computers would always start with a C:> prompt.

201 thoughts on “There is a world market for maybe five computers …*

  1. Governments are not very good at investing in sunrise industries.

    There is business cycle theory based on dark fibre. Based on buildind too far ahead of demand. Also used railroads and danals in the 19th century as examples

  2. Some random numbers;
    Max download speed: 25x Mbps.
    Total internet data (approx) when NBN finished, early 2020s: 10x ZB.
    Time to download entire internet: approx 10 million years.
    With Labor you’ll trim that time down to only 2.5 million years.

    Before NBN completes, broader issues; quality over quantity, big-data analysis by all, emergent ai.

    I’d say better to err on side of quality, but agree with Jim about our abilities in predicting what we may be needing next decade.

  3. What will save Labour and kill the current Liberal “vision” is the ability to upgrade the fibre terminations. Both in the day-to-day “I want more internets” so you buy a 1GB terminator, and the more important sense that over time they will roll out faster terminations for everyone. The Liberals will be stuck paying to install more boxes in the street then pull them back out again starting about the time they finish rolling out their network. If not before then.

    For Abbott, he’s a bit stuck behind the “changing your mind makes you a liar” barricade he’s built. Although possibly once Turnbulls head actually explodes he will get a tech advisor that he can listen to and maybe he will pull it out and turn around.

  4. I’m amazed by how many times Gillard can score an own goal, even without any pressure from the opposition. I’d like to know from anyone with a good handle on opinion polls whether there is any evidence pointing to strong support for coalition policies or whether the main focus is on a rejection of Gillard’s leadership. Is it still too late to hope for a leadership change? It’s about time someone called BS on all these bogus cost/benefit analyses, where only fools believe there is sufficient insight into the future to be accurate calculations.

  5. I think this anti-Gillard thing is a Murdoch/Fairfax beat up that has convinced a few bloggers that the public don’t like Gillard. I loathed Big Kev.

    I note that Simon Crean is now being used as a spearhead by Murdoch. It is all very undignified. I find Crean’s and Kev Rudd’s actions and attitudes creepy. Why anyone would want any of the opposition or the creepy coup faction is beyond me.

    What scares me even more than the creepy people is the idea that Gillard may ultimately fall in line with Murdoch under this continuous pressure of nonsense leadership challenges he has created out of straw men.

  6. Hoping for any good from an Abbott government is to go light years beyond astoundingly optimistic. The election of an Abbott government will pretty much seal our fate. There will be no way back from the mess he creates. Australia’s chances will be finished. Mind you, Gillard is so stupid, perverse and right wing she could probably wreck us nearly as thoroughly as Abbott.

  7. I would still assert that graphical interfaces are an unnecessary luxury and that Real Computers should always start a user’s session with a $ shell prompt.

  8. I, for one, don’t believe that MT dislikes the NBN. His attacks have been pretty weak and sporadic all along; I think he just had to go along with the Abbot line of oppose everything and the toadies at News Ltd simply complied with it. So for MT to do an about face would not be that hard and even maybe a relief.
    There are reason for attacking the NBN but this would be political suicide for the coalition – the most stupid point is to cover 93% of households with fiber when the figure should be closer to 70%, that is, the capital cities and major population centres. That would cut the cost enormously. Since rural australia never votes for the Labor party I never understood why they had to be favoured by the NBN.
    Can Abbot change his mind? Maybe, after all he confessed that if he had not written a signed statement then he could not be held to it. A closer look at his character would simply say that he has no interest in technology so do whatever (hence changed his mind) but when it comes to what Pell/Rineherat/Murdoch advises him then he will remain resolute.

  9. It’s a curious policy, this Liberal Clayton’s NBN. Two thirds of the cost of the Labor NBN, yet it delivers a far inferior service to an extra two thirds of the voting public. How Turnbott can claim it is value for money with a straight face I do not know. It fails any comparative CBA with Labor’s version at face value.

    Has Sinodinos been mothballed due to the Obeid stink? Where is Liberal policy development at right now? If this sort of worst-of-both-worlds policy which costs too much and delivers too little is the sort of thing we’re going to expect out of Abbott from now on, I’d say that 10% chance that the Prof gives Gillard is lowballing it a tad. The full horror of the prospect of an Abbott government, combining the ineffective profligacy of Baillieu with the wacky irresponsibility of Newman, will become more apparent to the electorate with every new policy announcement.

  10. @Sheila Newman

    Rather than saying that the anti-Gillard thing is a media beatup, how about a substantive defence of her policies? Do you think cutting uni and TAFE funding (but not payments to wealthy private schools) to pay for school funding is a good idea? If so, make the case.

    Similarly with 457-baiting, cuts for single parents, equal marriage, Afghanistan war, US deputy sheriff, citizens assembly, cash for clunkers etc etc – Murdoch and Fairfax didn’t make these up.

  11. ‘I’m going to ignore Gillard’s “Rob Peter to Pay Paul” aprroach to funding Gonski …’

    Except that she has given the next government a rolled gold opportunity to cut funding to higher education and claim bipartisan support for it.

    I remember Ross Gittins writing in 2007 that it didn’t much matter who won the pending election, because both parties would be obliged to follow the policy direction established by the Howard Government. Wise man that Gittins … I wonder how much longer Gina will tolerate his presence.

  12. @m0nty until the Gonski thing I was hoping that growing recognition of Abbott’s flaws would at least prevent a rout. Now I doubt it

  13. @John Quiggin Gillard is on the box talking of how she is changing school funding ‘for all time’. Yesterday’s higher education funding changes were once in a generation changes.

    nothing of substance has changed since Rudd and his great moral challenge of our time left the building. all sound and fury.

  14. They gave a big hint as to why they wanted to build a deliberately bad network by holding the launch at Foxtel studios.

  15. Some random numbers;
    Max download speed: 25x Mbps.
    Total internet data (approx) when NBN finished, early 2020s: 10x ZB.
    Time to download entire internet: approx 10 million years.
    With Labor you’ll trim that time down to only 2.5 million years.

    It’s worth pointing out that these comparisons between copper and fibre are based on current modem standards and not the wires’ actual capacity for data transmission, which is practically limitless for fibre.

    The idea that the Coalition’s plan is 25% as fast as Labor’s plan (while being 75% as expensive – what a steal!) is based on comparing the maximum speeds you’ll get with copper against the minimum speeds you’ll get with fibre.

    By the time the network is actually completed the difference could likely be something more like 40:1 than 4:1, and in fifty years time – who knows.

    But what is certain is that the copper will be replaced with fibre eventually; either it’s done now under the current Labor plan, or it will be pointlessly delayed for a decade or two – at enormous cost – under the Coalition’s plan – the cost being the cost of maintaining a decrepit copper network and the costs of building thousands of stupid, energy-wasting street-corner boxes to transform fast fibre signals into slow copper signals (not to mention the costs to the wider economy of having a strangulated internet based on obsolete technology as the IT revolution continues on its exponential course).

    So their “faster” and “quicker” plan for a FTTN network actually just means a slower and MUCH more expensive plan for the FTTP network that will ultimately be built anyway.

  16. I wrote several drafts on this topic, but gave up on it. All I’ll add is that I saw some of Alan Kohler’s “Inside Business” (ABC) interview with Malcolm Turnbull, concerning the opposition party’s arguments against the NBN, and the Liberal’s national communications policy. Once it is online, I suggest listening to it, or reading the transcript. Malcolm’s responses to Alan’s questions felt like so much blowing of smoke, quite frankly. Very disappointing, in my opinion (the responses, that is).

  17. We had the argument over coffee this morning with a nice guy of the Liberal persuasion. He argued that you do a basic NBN now, and increase the capacity as needed. I’d believe him, but I’m pretty sure that when he built his house he didn’t adopt this approach.

    Anyway, I remember 14kbs dial-up. Why would you ever need more than that?

  18. @Sheila Newman

    What I find creepy is the Gillard defence that assumes people do not know enough to make their own decisions. It varies from Jill Rush’s recent claim that criticism of Gillard is sexism to your own that criticism of Gillard is an artefact of a hostile media.

    The weakness in both your arguments is that you do not engage with anyone questioning Gillard’s extraordinary conservatism, her extraordinary opportunism, or her mediocre political skills. I submit the media bias and sexism arguments are being pushed by the ALP, the PMO in particular, because they are actually the only arguments they have. These two arguments also have the additional advantage of being inarguable.

  19. Like you Professor Quiggin, I am convinced that if an election was held this weekend Abbott would win, however I am NOT convinced that Abbott will win in 5 months time. I don’t think recent announcements by Gillard have done her any favours but the race isn’t over yet.

    On the NBN FTTN is a band aid compared to FTTP, better to do it right the first time. If its a matter of cost, we are all familiar with money is worth more today than tomorrow so the Coalition plan fails on both counts.

  20. @Ken_L Yes the “rob Peter to pay Paul” is a clear sign of weakness from the Gillard govt. They have been rolled on important reforms like media, super and mining tax so pick on the defenseless eg single mothers, asylum seekers and uni students. This is classic Liberal party policy.

  21. I’ve tried twice to send a long and impassioned plea to stop writing off the Gillard government, and both times I’ve managed to lose it, so here’s hoping it works this time. The gist of it is:
    Yes, the government and Julia Gillard have done things that are politically stupid and ethically wrong.
    Nevertheless there is a problem with way they are being treated, not just by the right, but by people, like so many on this website, who are ostensibly left.
    They are being written off as hopeless even when, as in this post, their policies are seen as better than those of the opposition.
    Implicit in this treatment is an assumption that it’s their (her) own fault, that they (she) are to blame and deserve to be beaten.
    This is related to sexism.
    Why? Because sexism in contemporary society is not usually manifested through direct discrimination, but through bias. Women are judged more harshly than men. That is exactly what is happening on this blog. People are so busy bagging the government and Julia Gillard that they don’t even look at the bigger picture, which is about the alternative – Abbott. Even when you are saying the government is doing something right, like the NBN, you can’t resist ‘yeah but look at all the stupid things they (she) have done’. I read a classic the other day (not on this blog but in the Age) where the writer said that Gillard had an unqualified success in China, but it was ‘too little, too late’ (ie we can forget about it and go back to bagging her).
    I worked with Gillard for almost two years, in the very difficult circumstances of opposition under the Kennett government in Victoria (when she was John Brumby’s chief of staff) and I can tell you, even though I am no longer involved with the Labor party, she is both extreme competent and genuinely kind. I am not surprised that her colleagues support her, or that she was able to form government through negotiation.
    As I said, I don’t agree with a lot that the government has done: for example I am appalled by their – and Julia Gillard’s specifically – position on asylum seekers, sole parents and the dole. I understand why they are doing these things but I also think they are both wrong and incompetent in the way they are handling these issues. I believe it would be ethically and politically better to take social justice positions and lead on these issues. Nevertheless I still recognize that Abbott is worse.
    I can also recognize that on some issues, particularly climate change, the government and Julia Gillard have acted in a historically significant way. For the first time, we are seeing positive action. Emissions from the electricity sector have actually declined and carbon price appears to have contributed to this. There are other factors involved, there’s a lot more needs to be done, and it was the Greens who pushed them into it in this term: nevertheless, Julia Gillard said she wanted to put a price on carbon and a government led by Julia Gillard did it. Now we are in danger of losing all this and going backwards on this and other issues, like Gonski and the NDIS. How many of you have read the IPA manifesto? Because Tony Abbott won’t do all of that, but that is the directions we will go in if he gets in. Yet so many on this blog are still too busy bagging Gillard to think seriously about this. I honestly believe that if Tony Abbott gets in, the responsibility will lie as much with people on the left who could not stop bagging Gillard, as with the Murdoch press.
    For what it is worth, here’s my attempt to explain why some people cant stop bagging Gillard. For Kevin Rudd, and unconsciously for many men (and some women) who identified or sympathised with hi, to be forced to step down in his first term, for a woman who was supposed to be his loyal second in command, was the ultimate humiliation. He could not let go, and he could not hand over graciously (cf Baillieu in Victoria). In these circumstances, many people including many men (and as I say, some women) on the left, simply could not accept her as a legitimate leader. For some, including some commentators on this site, it goes further than that: they can only see her as devious and sneaky. This is a classic response of a dominant group when challenged by those they see as subordinate: they can’t accept that those people have a right to challenge, and they have to see them as devious and sneaky. (Judith Brett wrote very well about this in class terms in Robert Menzies’ Forgotten People).
    I believe that if Abbott gets in, some people on the left are going to look back and be horrified at their part in contributing to this. And I also believe that the reason they can’t stop bagging the Gillard government, even when discussing issues like the NBN, where the government hasn’t done anything wrong, where it’s irrational and likely to lead to outcomes they don’t actually want, is emotional and is related to sexism. I’m sure many wont like this and there will be a tendency to reject it out of hand, but I do implore you to think about it. I’m not saying that you are misogynists or you hate women – I’m just saying maybe you are biased, maybe you judge women in positions of authority more harshly than you do men, and maybe in some cases you, like Kevin Rudd, are clinging to emotional feelings about being betrayed by the kind of person who is supposed to be supportive (and supposed to put men first).

  22. Val did you actually read the post? There is no ‘bagging’ of the government over the NBN – quite the reverse.

    This meme that any criticism of the government is crude sexism started the day after Rudd was replaced as leader. It relies on a completely untestable (and patronising) belief about the motivation of the government’s critics, ignores the fact that many of us were equally critical of Kevin Rudd (and indeed of Kim Beazley, Mark Latham, and a bunch of other Labor heavyweights) and strikes me frankly as a flight of fantasy by people who don’t want to confront the reality of the ALP’s self-destruction.

  23. I see where you are coming from here Val, but I think you are mistaken. The disappointment in Gillard is not related to gender for many of her critics. I should add for me this _is_ real disappointment, I was confused, but hopeful for her when she became prime minister and genuinely pleased to see a first female pm.

    From a policy point of view, I agree 100% with you (I think). I also agree with you that the carbon tax is historically significant. The problem I have with your line of argument is that it was Gillard’s shifting position on the CPRS as deputy and then prime minister that damaged first Rudd’s reputation and then her own and now she is unwilling to make the elementary economic argument against the coallition’s direction action policy. The actions of Gillard, Shorten and Feeney have fatally wounded Labor and for what purpose? While she has achieved much; most of it is the Rudd legacy she inherited. When she differentiated herself from Rudd she has almost consistently made blunders based upon the assumption that the best way to broaden Labors base was to appeal to xenephobia in the suburbs. Rudd didn’t need to do this to be popular. Everyone says Gillard is tough, I don’t disagree, but on arguing for a carbon price she has a long record of absolutely lacking either courage or conviction.

    I am currently very confused, I really want the carbon tax to remain. I also want the factions punished for what they have done, I see labor party reform as extremely important and yet incompatible with a miraculous labor win. There is no contradiction in not wanting an Abbott government and feeling anger at the labor party’s factional system. It is grossly unfair to dismiss opinions of this sort as sexism, in fact the sexist argument has become extremely convenient to labor’s powerbrokers.

  24. I’m 100% with Val on this. I think even the left has internalised the relentless media campaign against Gillard and now blames the ALP for the constant misrepresentation and lies the media subjects them to. Do they have some appalling policies? Yes they do and so has every other Labor Government I have known, the Hawke government in particular was far worse – just think what Hawke did to universities. Nonetheless Hawke was generally supported in ways Gillard has not been probably because the sad old men of today could identify with his boozy groper style. They are stricken now not just by the fact that Gillard is a woman but also by the fact that she doesn’t bluster, she demands negotiation and compromise, the very thing they hate about their wives. I suspect they find the success of her extreme pragmatism far more discomforting than the prospect of Abbott’s clown car of a front bench ending up in power.

  25. Thank you for your comments. Ken, you have completely misread what I wrote – can I ask that you read it again more carefully?
    David I felt your comment was much more considered but in some ways it still reinforces what I am saying. For example, rather than blaming Rudd for squibbing on the CPRS, you blame Gillard for his actions. I’m really puzzled as to why you would do that. Do you have some information which is not publicly available? How was she to blame? I think this is another aspect of the sexism I am talking about – she is not only to be blamed for her own mistakes, she can even be blamed for Rudd’s.
    It is insulting and patronizing to dismiss women’s concerns about sexism in the way you did, and it’s actually funny to suggest that the concerns of someone like me would be supported by Labor power brokers – not that you could know but I am more likely to be hated by Labor power brokers. I don’t have anything to do with the Labor party any more and I am certainly not an apologist for it, nor for Julia Gillard. I just know that she has genuine strengths, and has achieved some good things, as well as making some significant blunders. I am just concerned that there are people on the left who are so intent on bagging her that they are effectively assisting Abbott. Your comments about the carbon price are a case in point: you can’t just give her credit for that, you have to assert that she was to blame for Rudd’s version not getting through. I have never heard that from the Greens, who have consistently said that his version was no good and that he would not negotiate. Maybe you could just believe the statements that her colleagues, the Greens and the independents have all consistently made – that she is a good person to deal with in negotiations. I personally suspect (and remember I do actually know her personally), that she sometimes gives away too much in negotiations, but that is a separate and fairly complex issue.
    I really wish that you could take the views of women such as myself, or Marilyn Lake or Anne Summers (and some of the other women commenting on this site) a little more seriously. Is it not possible that there may be something in what we are saying?

  26. David I should also add that I agree from my experience that factionalism is a huge problem in the Labor party – about power and deals and getting your protégées up rather than about ideas and values.

  27. @Val

    Actually the Greens have said the precise opposite, which is why they ended their agreement with the government. Equally Andrew Wilkie does not seem to share your enthusiasm for Gillard after she reneged on gambling reform. Her comments about the agreement with the Greens after it broke down, that she was never really committed to it, does not speak of a person who is a great negotiator. Nor does the whole tactic of springing the media legislation on a cabinet called to consider CSG and then telling the parliament to pass it on ridiculously short notice, without amendments, seem like evidence of great negotiating skills.

    I find the toughness argument as bewildering as the good negotiator argument. Gillard caved to the mining industry, she caved to the ACL, she caved to unjustified popular fears on refugees, she caved to economic conservatives on the surplus, she even caved to the nonsense on 457s. She seems to cave to any conservative group going.

    As it happens I think much of the Hawke/Keating program was deeply retrograde, but at least Hawke and Keating argued it through the party instead of trying to impose it by unilateral decree.

  28. Wow thanks Ian, great stuff. Your comment wasn’t up when I replied before. So cheering. Must stop now and go to sleep, but really hope we can get people away from the ‘lets all blame Gillard and say how much we hate her’ and start focusing on what an Abbott government would do.

  29. at this point besides treating refugees a bit worse and doing a few favours for their rich mates what is Abbott going to do that Gillard already hasn’t.

    At what point does her mindless, ineffective conservatism so damage the labour movement that it becomes indefensible. Her capitulation on refugees has given the liberals complete cover on the issue for years to come, her gutless backdowns on supernnuation, media reform etc etc whilst cutting spending on the poor and relatively powerless does the same.

    This would be bad enough if it was politically effective, but it doesn’t even work and it hasn’t at any point in the last two and a half years. Gillard is driving the labour party even further to the right and the only ‘benefit’ will be a thumping liberal majority. What an utter disgrace

  30. Wow, so now according to some respondents we are implicitly not permitted to criticise any female politician defended by them because that makes us sexist. This is despite the many subtantive proofs that Julia Gillard has folded to the mining oligarchs and has neoconservative policies on any number of major issues.

    The logical analogy of the results of this kind of thinking re Gillard and Abbott is this. We are not allowed to designate poison A as poisonous because it is not as poisonous as poison B, even though both will destroy all hopes for a healthy, productive life.

  31. What’s even more damning is that the whole ‘Vote ALP because we are not as bad as Tony Abbot’ strategy has been tried for the last three years and has spectacularly failed. Tacking on ‘and you’re sexist if you don’t’ doesn’t strike me as a brilliant political strategy.

    Moreover, given the government’s record on refugee and indigenous policy, and on marriage equality, if the same test were applied to racism and homophobia as it is claimed should apply to sexism it would be legitimate to accuse Julia Gillard of racism and homophobia. It would also be legitimate to argue that Gillard may not be aware of her racism and homophobia and has been effected by the constant media drumbeat on the subject.

  32. When she is finally massacred at the election it may even do some good by utterly discrediting her ‘liberal-lite’ approach to governance.

  33. It would be very surprising if gender did not negatively affect perceptions of Gillard because (a) study after study have demonstrated that the overwhelming majority of Westerners have negative implicit attitudes toward woman in power and (b) a number of studies have shown that these attitudes mediate explicit beliefs under a variety of conditions. References available on request.

  34. One of the things that the current polls show clearly is that you can’t be a capitalist party in charge of a capitalist society when the capitalist class is keen on regime change.

    In order to have a chance of winning, you’d have to be willing to challenge explicitly major sections of the boss class and propose a model of arrangements with which the working population could identify strongly, but that would almost certainly disrupt the party’s ability in the longer term to offer itself up as a safe pair of hands for the privileged, and would probably split the party. The boffins fancy they’d prefer to be beaten badly and yet retain credibility as a future boss class regime than be potentially ‘out in the wilderness’.

    Consequently, the party always chooses what for them seems the least unpalatable option — meek submission to the loudest noisemakers from the boss class. Unsurprisingly, most of those not tribally committed to the boss class party and who are not politically engaged of informed quickly attach themselves to the ascendant boss class party. The fact that more people trust the LNP — a party that opposed compulsory super — to look after compulsory super than the party that authored it and prefer the economic credentials of the LNP despite it having not even proposed a clearly specified fiscal policy underlines the reality that the current polling substantially reflects the departure from the ALP side of those low-information voters who are inclined to go with the the team backed by the boss class press.

    In short, the destruction of the comparatively competent but xenophobic and socially conservative populist centre-right regime of Gillard in favour of a slightly more rightwing demagogic xenophobic and socially conservative populist regime of Abbott is really a commentary on the ongoing relative political strength of the boss class, which has the luxury of two governing parties through which to negotiate its interests whereas the working people have none.

  35. @Neil

    I would think most commenters here are aware studies of gender bias in the media. That does not mean that a conservative and mediocre prime minister suddenly becomes a progressive and effective one. Nor do those studies explain why the same gender bias does not effect figures like Julie Bishop, Christine Milne, Anna Bligh, Kristina Keneally, Clare Martin, Lara Giddins, Penny Wong. That is not an exhaustive list.

  36. @Val

    Concern about what an Abbott government will (not “would” unfortunately) do is one of the reasons for wanting to be rid of Gillard. It’s obvious that Labor’s chances of re-election are virtually zero, and that Gillard’s unpopularity is a major reason for this. As you’ve conceded, there are plenty of objective reasons for this unpopularity. Regardless of the cause, though, it’s obvious that if Gillard had stepped aside gracefully, Abbott’s chances of winning would have been greatly reduced. Her toughness would have been exhibited to great effect.

    It’s too late for that now, I think, so all we can do is work out how best to resist Abbott.

  37. I remember hearing Kenneally’s concession speech after the demolition of NSW ALP in 2011.

    After years of neo-liberal policies and lurching further to the right (especially electricity privatisation, in their case) – she essentially blamed “disunity” for the result.

    She started out in what sounded like a promising direction (the people “did not leave us, we left them”) and then spend 15 minutes blaming everyone for not getting unified and supporting widely detested policies.

    Especially in light of LNP now governing in NSW, Vic & Qld – the ramping up of the “Abbott would be worse” meme might be effective as a boogeyman if there was any evidence whatsoever of the ALP in those states having learned anything from their losses (or wipeouts).

    Good luck ALP supporters, if you can pull it off all power to you – but don’t expect the generally leftish half of the population to blindly give it to you. I suspect they would gladly vote ALP above LNP if they had a couple of reasons to do so (refugees, environment, decent support for the needy etc..), but I doubt yelling at them about Abbott is going to do it.

    The AM version of Kennealy’s speech is here:

  38. It’s strange to me that I was just as critical of Keneally and Bligh (not to mention Beazley, Crean, Iemma, and other male ALP leaders) as I have been of Gillard, and no one mentioned the gender issue then

    Looking through the archives to the 2005 contest, I find a post please, not Beazley in which I say:

    “Labor isn’t short of options. I favored Rudd last time around, and I think he’s probably the right choice this time. But I’d also be happy with Gillard”

  39. @Alan

    Alan, I was not talking about bias in the media, but in each of us. The overwhelming majority of people – including women – have negativr implicit attitudes toward women. That will affect, in complex and interactive ways, the way we judge identical actions by women and by men, typically to women’s detriment. Of course it explains only some proportion of the variance, both across populations and within individuals; the latter by induction (there is no method to identify the effects at the level of a single individual, though we can certainly measure the implicit attitudes of individuals). None of this is meant as a defence of Gillard or as an attack on John Quggin (or any other poster). Like all of us, John Quiggin is doing his best to assess Gillard policies and actions on their merits (and has the knowledge and skills to do this a lot better than, say, me). Nevertheless it would not be surprising if his assessments are somewhat more negative than they would otherwise have been due to the influence of his implicit attitudes (almost certainly the influence would be too small to change the character of the assessment). I do think it is likely that the poll numbers we see for Gillard are much lower than they would be on the merits of the government alone, because I suspect that most people are more biased by their IAs – and have more negative IAs – than John. Again, I don’t want to pick on John here; my evidence that he has negative IAs toward woman is purely inductive (almost everyone does; therefore it is likely he does). And I have no reason to think these attitudes influence him more than, say, me.

  40. @Fran Barlow

    Fran, that was brilliant; perfectly analysed and perfectly expressed. There is really nothing anyone can add to that analysis. It is a 100% true picture of the situation. It’s tragic for all the oppressed and dispossed classes. They have no hope, no-one to vote for and nowhere to go. Sometimes I wish there were a just god so the rich would be punished. But no, they almost always get away with all of it; the loot, the crimes against humanity and the sanctimoneous, supercilious and triumphal tone which attends their every utterance. Thatcher was a case in point as were Reagan and the Bushes.

  41. Even though I think sexism is a major issue particularly in mainstream commentary and particularly to their shame on the male left who like racists saying “I’m not a racist but …” precede all their supposed supportive statements with some Gillard sledging. But I think it is only part of a different issue, the real issue is the entire bosses culture that is generated by the media (as Fran would probably put it). A hostile culture can override an rational impulses in a society and can usually only be broken by a degree of aggression the ALP seems to lack (and the innately cowardly Rudd certainly lacked). Show that degree of aggression and the 20-30% of voters who simply go whichever way the wind blows will suddenly line up behind you. It is true “not as bad as Abbott” is not much of a campaign slogan but its not helped much by all those supposed supporters who constantly chant the ALP is as bad as Abbott. Its not and the federal ALP is simply not mired in corruption the way NSW was.

  42. @Neil

    It’s patronising and inaccurate to invoke that as an issue in the case of well-educated men (and women) with strong left-wing positions, exposed to and sympathetic to the women’s movement since the 1960s, who give cogent reasons for their rejection of the policies of a female politician (in this case). That phenomenon, true as it is overall, does not affect the substantive left-wing case against the Gillard government’s (she is not solely responsible) egregious neo-conservative policies.

  43. @Ian Milliss

    Modern Labor is gutless, useless and unreformable. We need a real party of the Left. Even the Greens are neocon in economics, rabbiting on about sustainable budgets when they mean keeping the budget out of deficit even if unemployment is 5% and true labour untilisation more like 10%. The Overton Window is so far to the right, Malcolm Fraser ended up a “moderate”… when he could keep his trousers on. Go figure!

  44. @Ian Milliss

    Can you point to any male leftists who fit your bill – that is, criticise Gillard on gendered grounds, while disclaiming sexism? Or are you saying that any criticism of Gillard is automatically sexist?

    On the substantive point, to restate yet again, I’m not saying that Labor under Gillard is as bad as Abbott. I’m saying that Labor will lose under Gillard, whether we like it or not. So, while there was still time, I said they should change leaders*. Now that time has run out, I’m preparing for an Abbott government as best I can.

    * If she stood for something worth fighting for, I’d agree there was a case for sticking to her regardless of the electoral consequences. But, despite repeated requests, none of her supporters her have pointed to anything of this kind.

  45. @Ikonoclast
    Agree entirely about the Greens even though I will end up voting for them and preferencing Labor, the est we can hope for is an ALP that survives purely on Green preferences which push them at least on more progressive social issues.

    @John Quiggin
    I will immediately admit that is anecdotal through my left to centre left social circles where those sort of comments are all pervasive. And my social circle is big but mostly arts/cultural/political. But that also illustrates the Overton Window problem, the fact that any left wing commentary is limited to comparatively small audiences in the social media which so far are not really networked together, or at least not effectively enough to counter the wounded, and therefore even more dangerous, mass media.

  46. @ John Quiggin
    You started a discussion about the NBN by saying that Julia Gillard would be “nothing more than a bad memory” in a year’s time. Of which male Labor Prime Minister have you ever said such a thing? Seriously?
    I and a few other commentators on this thread argue that the Prime Minister who succeeded in getting a price in carbon ( which her predecessor couldn’t do) will not be seen this way by history. Her government also raised the tax free thresh-hold significantly (which is progressive) and reduced the PHI subsidy to higher income earners. They are also trying to improve equity in school funding, start the NDIS, and reduce superannuation subsidies to the very wealthy. From a left point of view, it’s not enough and there have been some blunders and areas where existing inequalities have been reinforced or extended (particularly asylum seekers and sole parents). However as I said, Julia Gillard is a negotiator. From a left wing perspective she has given away too much to the mining industry and right wing ideologues. Right wingers, however, say she has given too much to the greens/left. Either way, she has had some successes (particularly carbon price) where a confrontational approach hadn’t worked.
    To say she will be “nothing more than a bad memory” is not just a rhetorical flourish. It buys directly into the right wing attack that Fran Barlow has discussed, which is my great concern.
    Also BTW it seems that you have been strongly critical of quite a few Labor leaders. Would you agree that structural rather than individual issues may be the core problem?
    @ Fran Barlow
    I agree with your general analysis, though I still think there is a difference between Labor and Liberal – inequity will get worse under the Libs while Labor will at least try to prevent this. I wonder if part of the reason Victorians are more inclined to support Labor is that we experienced Jeff Kennett and we know what a right wing ideologue can do?
    I would suggest however that the reason a lot of people on this site can’t see that it is not just about Gillard as an individual, is because the right wing theme ‘she’s hopeless, she’s incompetent, she can’t do anything right and when she does it’s irrelevant’ buys into their existing unconscious sexism.

  47. @Ikonoclast
    And Oh how we long for a party of the left. But it would need from day one to develop a communication base entirely outside the mass media, in fact as the developing cliche goes it would need to develop a community rather than a party.

  48. @Ikonoclast

    I agree that there is a cogent case to be made against the Gillard government. I think what Fran said above had more than a grain of truth in it (as did you). I also agree with most, perhaps all, of JQ’s arguments against Gillard policies. Nevertheless the evidence is overwhelming that most people have negative implicit attitudes with regard to women, and the scope of most people includes well-educated people. You, for instance (most likely). Me too (I know for a fact). In Dasgupta’s phrase, implicit attitudes are an equal opportunity virus: you pick them up as consequence of living in a sexist environment (where “sexist” just means an environment in which the association between competency and masculinity is often reinforced). The evidence that we have such attitudes is absolutely indisputable. The evidence that they affect our perceptions of, say, policies, is strong, though somewhat weaker than the evidence for the existence of these attitudes. Again, the claim is only that they affect our perceptions, not that we ought to believe that our perceptions are utterly shaped by them.

    I encourage you to do an implicit associate test: they are sobering. If you do not have negative attitudes toward women, I congratulate you!

  49. Btw lets clear up one area of apparent confusion. Bias does not mean that you have to criticize Gillard on gender grounds. It means that you are more critical of her than you would be of a male in similar circumstances. As Neil says, evidence that this kind of bias exists has been found through research such as blind testing, eg give people the same piece of writing ostensibly by a male or female author, and the female author gets a lower ranking.

  50. In my PhD in public health, one of the issues I’m looking at is whether it’s possible to build a consensus around the value of equity and environmental sustainability that goes beyond adversarial party politics. Will send blog link when it is publicly available – I’d be interested in people’s comments. One of the barriers I’m currently exploring is the patriarchal foundations of knowledge. Better shut up for a while now and do some work! Cheers tks for interesting discussion.

  51. Short of ‘something worth fighting for’ could be an admission on Gillard’s part that the ALP’s (and LNP) asylum policy is full of anomalies. Fran Kelly raised one of them on RN today regarding those asylum seekers adjudged to be refugees who have an adverse ASIO assessment. Some of these poor buggars have been locked up for three years by this ‘anomaly’ and have taken to hunger striking. Like Thatcher in the case of IRA hunger strikers, Gillard could offer nothing but a similar ‘hard line’ on refusing to respond to this form of protest.
    Thatcher was a failure in Northern Ireland and Gillard seems intent on following her. Surely she realises that the limbo world that these people face cannot continue indefinitely. If she can’t bring herself to say something inspiring on this issue, that Abbott could hardly wedge her on in their mutual race to the bottom, then she fails any leadership test. Who else but Gillard can offer anything on this issue?
    It is such a shame as her Gonski reforms, NBN and all the rest of it could have convinced me

  52. Val I don’t read anybody questioning the existence of gender bias. We are saying there is no evidence whatsoever that it is colouring our opinions of the Gillard Government’s performance, and it is more than a little patronising (not to say offensive) for others to claim that we must be unconsciously biased because we just must be. One can justify criticism of any opinion by claiming it is motivated by unconscious bias – it’s just an exercise in empty rhetoric reminiscent of so many of the reflexive ‘racism!’ responses to any criticisms of Barack Obama.

    Anyone who has followed this blog for any length of time will be well aware that ‘structural rather than individual issues’ have long been identified as Labor’s ‘core problem’ by many regular commenters. That does not absolve Gillard of her share of responsibility for the government’s current woes, starting with her extraordinarily ill-advised decision to challenge for the leadership in the way that she did.

  53. Val :
    @ John Quiggin
    I and a few other commentators on this thread argue that the Prime Minister who succeeded in getting a price in carbon ( which her predecessor couldn’t do) will not be seen this way by history.

    In terms of her legacy, then yeah, probably, but let’s be clear here: Rudd gave up on idea of pricing carbon primarily because he was threatened to ditch it by 2 very senior cabinet ministers; one of which was Gillard. She didn’t believe in pricing carbon then, she didn’t believe in pricing carbon when she signed the deal with the Greens and she still doesn’t believe in price carbon now. There’s essentially no difference between her *private* beliefs and that of Abbott when it comes to pricing carbon. In fact, the similarities of the 2 are quite profound when it comes to that “whatever it takes” philosophy – he’s just a bit more honest about it.

  54. I have a reply to Ikonoclast stuck in moderation (perhaps because I included a link?) The gist of it is that educated people should know that educated people are just as much subject to implicit attitudes as uneducated: this is one area in which education is not preventive. Moreover, the correlation between implicit and explicit attitudes is low (0.24; Hofmann, Gawronski,
    et al. 2005). So have non-sexist explicit attitudes does not predict non-sexist implicit attitudes.

  55. @Ken_L

    “We must be unconsciously biased because we just must be”.

    No, we must be unconsciously biased because more or less everyone is. I think the responses to the claim that sexism colours our perceptions confuses that claim with another one: sexism causes our perceptions. No one should conclude that they don’t have good reasons for their views.

  56. Ken_L :
    starting with her extraordinarily ill-advised decision to challenge for the leadership in the way that she did.

    a perfect illustration of the bias Val is talking about yet is vehemently denied by those who perpetuate it. It seems to me that she simply picked up the position when he walked away after it was made clear to him that most of the party had had enough of his inability to cope with the role. But you are certainly repeating the MSM version.

    Re carbon pricing, quite frankly I don’t care whether any leader really believes in a policy as long as they enact it anyway. That means they are also culpable for the urgent reforms that they have failed to enact.

  57. @Neil

    OK, let’s say my main complaint with the government is their treatment of refugees. Let’s also say that I flatly refuse to in any way endorse a party that acts that way. Let’s say that as a result of sufficient numbers of other citizens also sharing that position, Abbott ends up being PM and LNP the government.

    If that is just a fact, it probably doesn’t matter whether I am implicitly or explicitly sexist/biased does it?

    Telling me I’m sexist but just aren’t self-aware enough to accept that doesn’t change my opinion of actions and policies.

  58. I see in the Fairfax press that the polls are still pointing to an ALP loss.

    Abbott’s rating (on one of the measures) was minus 10 and Gillard’s was minus 22.

    It would be nice to have a potential leader who scored a positive result in that category.

  59. @Megan

    I am not suggesting that you don’t have good reasons for your views. It is possible that your reasons are confabulated, but you can’t constantly second guess yourself. You can only make a good faith effort to call things as you them (and I take it you are doing that). The practical upshot of discovery that we are all sexist is that we need to work on our sexism (by changing our environments: more exposure to positive female figures and less to negative; this is probably not something we can achieve on our own, since it requires changes in media, in actual proportions of women in leadership positions, and so on). Again, the likelihood is that for most people, their views of Gillard are somewhat less positive than they would be were she male. But we can demonstrate this only at the group level, not the individual level: you can’t know whether, or to what extent, this is true of you.

  60. @Neil

    I don’t disagree with your point, but that doesn’t mean people do not try to eliminate psychological influences as best as they can. It also does not imply that sexism or negative implicit attitude towards woman being the main reasons why critics are critical of ALP policies.

    To refute systematic policy evaluation (even biased evaluations) which conclusions are derived from technical reasons and evidence, you must also perform systematic evaluation and provide technical reasons (whether it be economic, legality, technological etc.) rather than using sexism or psychological influences as arguments.

  61. @Tom

    As I said before, Tom, I agree with very many of those policy evaluations. I can hardly intend to refute evaluations with which I agree. All – *all* – I am doing is dissenting from those people who have asserted, multiple times, on this thread and others, that sexism has nothing to do with their attitudes toward Gillard. The only epistemically responsible position, in light of the massive amounts of data, is to acknowledge that sexism probably plays some – perhaps small – role in our evaluations. I agree it does not imply that sexism is “the main reason why critics are critical of ALP policies”.

  62. @Val

    You started a discussion about the NBN by saying that Julia Gillard would be “nothing more than a bad memory” in a year’s time. Of which male Labor Prime Minister have you ever said such a thing? Seriously?

    Here’s what I had to say about Paul Keating

    This year will see the long-delayed end of the Keating era in Australian politics. Although Paul Keating left office in 1996, he still casts a long shadow over Australian public life. In an irony of history, electoral revulsion against Keating-inspired policy failures and, in large measure, against Keating himself, produced a series of governments which, in style and substance, have pursued the Keating agenda


    And here are my thoughts on Bob Hawke, expressed in verse, and with a note that “the theme of a radical labor leader who becomes markedly less radical in office will persist as long as we have radical labor leaders (not that there are many around right now)”.

  63. Since Thatcher’s name has been raised a couple of times already, I think it’s appropriate to ask the Gillard supporters here how they would apply their arguments to Thatcher. As with Gillard, some of the attacks on her have adopted misogynistic themes. The generic arguments about bias are just as applicable to Thatcher as to Gillard.

    So, should UK lefties have supported Thatcher, or at least qualified their criticism of her to offset unconscious bias? If not, why should Gillard (whom no-one here has been willing to defend in substantive policy terms) be supported on the basis of her gender?

  64. I do think there are grounds for thinking that criticism of Thatcher should be tempered very, very slightly, on this basis. I suspect that she is more hated than Cameron for reasons that may include gender, though I think there may be grounds for disliking her only as much. But again since we can’t detect the influence of AIs at the individual level, and we are required to muddle through as best we can despite acknowledging their existence, I don’t take the practical upshot to focus on our response to this or that policy or person. Rather the practical upshot involves means of trying to avoid the attitudes in the first place. Analogous questions arise all the time. Consider the influence of the fact that we have personal commitments to universities in our assessment of the robbing-Peter-to-pay-Paul aspect of Gonski. Are there grounds for thinking that because we are motivated this may influence us? Absolutely. Does that mean that what we have to say is worthless or merely the expression of our motivations? Of course not.

  65. Coming back to the point of the original post, I think John is right. I long suspected that NBN critics were right and it was expensive gold plating. Now that we have seen what the practical alternative is, though, I reckon Conroy’s judgement has been thoroughly vindicated (and I don’t usually have a lot of time for Stephen Conroy).

    I cannot understand why, given the history, any government would be willing to entrust itself to Telstra’s tender mercies again. I cannot understand why you’d go for a far slower, less reliable, more expensive to maintain (fibre doesn’t mind water, copper does) and far less flexible sytem to save, on your own figures, only about a quarter of the total construction cost. It makes no sense.

  66. @Neil

    Neil with respect, your multiple comments can be summed up as claiming people’s attitudes to Gillard are influenced by sexism because everybody’s must be. But then again nobody can know whether in any individual instance this amounts to a little bit of influence or a lot – not even the person concerned, because the bias is unconscious. That sounds dangerously like the evangelical Christian argument that if we don’t know Jesus we are miserably unhappy, even though we don’t realise it.

    Even if we accept your point for the sake of the argument, does it have any practical relevance to this discussion? Or do we just throw our hands up and say it’s impossible to discuss the performance of any female objectively so why bother trying?

    I have not read much literature on gender bias lately but I don’t recall it concluding that ‘we are ALL sexist’. Does that mean that even Val’s largely positive attitude to Julia Gillard is still biased against her by her unconscious sexism? Frankly I would need a lot more than a few controlled experiments to be persuaded that such a universal proposition has substance. I expect that the sympathetic attitude that not a few people have towards Gillard reflects conscious or unconscious POSITIVE bias towards women. But again, so what? Her decisions and actions can be examined on their merits, which has largely been the case on this blog.

  67. @Ken_L

    Ken: I didn’t say “we are all sexist”. I said “the overwhelming majority of us are sexist”. Here’s a reference. Nosek, Banaji & Greenwald 2002.

    I’m not sure how to interpret your demand for more than a “few controlled studies.” Do you want more than a few? Or do you want uncontrolled studies? Perhaps you want a lot of controlled studies, backed up by large scale quantitative and quality studies in the wild. Perhaps you want studies that combine laboratory-based work with real-life interventions and measures of performance. I can provide all these things. I will overwhelm you with quantity: if you want meta-analyses or examples of studies combining inside and outside the lab manipulations let me know and I will tell you which ones are most relevant.

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  68. Neil please read your own comments again before telling us what you did or did not write. I don’t invent direct quotes. I refer you to your comment #10: ‘The practical upshot of discovery that we are all sexist …’. But I’m glad you now concede that your claim was wrong.

  69. Two things irritate me about the NBN debate (and I expect I’d find more if I paid more attention)

    1. The entire emphasis is on the connection to people’s homes, with no mention of what backhaul improvements are to be done. I’m fortunate enough to have an ADSL2+ connection which syncs at 18Mbps, and it is very rare for me to saturate that — the bottleneck is always elsewhere. Fibre to the exchange, without other changes, would do nothing for me.

    2. NBN proponents love to pretend that is is vital for applications which can and do use other technologies — e.g. smart meters, which need negligible bandwidth, or ‘next big things’ where the obstacles are really in, and will remain in, other institutions, e.g. e-medicine. I have enough bandwidth now to have a teleconference with a doctor, but I don’t believe and such service is on offer.

  70. @Ken_L

    Yeah, that’s wrong; badly put at very least. I think both parts of the claim need qualification. It’s not all of us, it is almost all of us (the predictor is not education levels or explicit belief, by the way). And I think there is a case for denying that having negative implicit attitudes toward women entails *being sexist*. It does entail sometimes being biased in one’s assessments of the achievements and qualities of women. The likelihood is that for each of us, our assessments is somewhat biased in this way.

  71. Val,

    As I agree with you on many things it is rather easy for me to respect your opinion. I hope it is clear that even when I disagree with you, I still respect your opinion. FWIW I couldn’t be further from being a Canberra insider – isn’t that obvious – I like Rudd.

    There are many reports that Gillard was against the CPRS as deputy (both on and off the record) including Maxine McKew’s book which claims she went so far to put an ultimatum to Rudd over dropping the ETS. This undermines the main argument for her ascension as the main mistake Rudd made; was made despite his reservations and under intense pressure from her.

    Rudd and Gillard rose to the the labor leadership on an anti-factionalism platform. Gillard changed her mind and with factional support became prime minister. There is nothing inherently good or bad about the factions, but in this case it seems to have been exercising power in order to maintain control even at the possible expense of loosing government. It is a puzzling thing that Gillard is so much less popular than Rudd with a very similar lists of policies, gender may come in to that, but so will many other things including her ascension, her political judgement and her (fortunately unsuccessful) attempts to appeal to xenophobia.

    Many opinions expressed are often an attempt to balance a debate. To my mind the analysis of the Rudd government particularly by his colleagues has been hysterical, unfair and self serving. Although, I don’t dismiss Rudd’s failure to go to a double dissolution over the ETS.

    I understand that it is reasonable to balance hysterical criticism of Gillard in some areas of the press by pointing to good things she has done, and yes there are quite a few. Some criticism of Gillard may get an easier ride due to sexism, some but not all. I don’t think there is any evidence JQ is guilty of this. I actually think it is also unfair to apply it to much of the press.

  72. @Ian Milliss

    Re carbon pricing, quite frankly I don’t care whether any leader really believes in a policy as long as they enact it anyway. That means they are also culpable for the urgent reforms that they have failed to enact.

    The problem with this position is that we are not talking about Gillard’s belief or disbelief. We are talking about her active opposition to a carbon price as deputy prime minister. Like you, I care very little about the private beliefs of political actors. I do care about the political acts of political actors.

    The other problem, of course, is that Gillard’s yes-no-never-yes on carbon pricing is one of the major reasons that a policy which once enjoyed very broad popular support no longer has that support. The Gillard ‘achievement’ on carbon pricing will last about as long as it takes for the repeal bill to go through the next parliament. In the course of using the CPRS to destroy Rudd, Gillard also managed to destroy her own prospects as prime minister.

  73. … this discussion has made me wonder about the following question:

    What would a pro-carbon-price, anti-factional-power senate how-to-vote card look like?

  74. @David Rohde

    It wouldn’t have any members of the ALP or LNP on it!

    I’ve been trying to get solid figures on the number of times ALP & LNP have voted together in the current senate to pass legislation opposed by the other senators. At a guess (from listening to quite a few senate divisions on the radio) I’d say it is about 80% or higher.

  75. Speaking as someone who accepts that misogyny has played a part in the position that the PM finds herself in …

    I don’t share the view that all of us or most of us or even most men are ‘(un)/consciously sexist’. I don’t know how anyone could begin to measure that and more importantly, outline the ‘quality’ of the sexism discovered.

    There can be little doubt that at the level of public discourse, the visceral hostility of the boss class to the ALP-led regime has been manifest in displays of gender-bias, within the Old Media and to some extent in the new media as well. This in turn has rendered normative resort to constructions of Gillard in popular discourse that are obvious examples of sexism/misogyny. One need not ask what mental or cultural states inform these expressions of angst to situate them within very longstanding male-gender exclusive usages.

    IMO, ‘sexism’ has acted as a kind of bonding agent amongst many (especially but not exclusively) on the right, who wish for one reason or another to eject the ALP regime. I don’t suppose for a moment that sexism is anything more than an amplifier or positive feedback mechanism in the decline in the apparent popularity of the ALP regime. If sexism formed only a trivial part of popular usages or was limited to rusted on Coalition voters, it would have played almost no part at all in the ALP’s decline.

    The problem is that the ALP has long relied on socially marginalised and quite socially conservative people for its mass appeal. It has often presented it as a party for “every day Australians” who “set their alarms early” “who see dignity in labour” contrasting themselves with the inauthentic ‘inner city elites’ — us ‘latte-sipping Greens’ — hence the pandering over refugee-queue jumpers and 457 visas.

    This crowd tends to be pretty unabashed about having ‘non-PC’ attitudes to women, gays, foreigners, dole bludgers, youth, laura norder etc … It’s hardly surprising that misogynist commentary would resonate with them and that Gillard would struggle to come up with an effective response to it. Having valorised their angst, she is going to struggle to confront them on her gender’s claims to equal dealing whatever we of the latte-sipping set might say.

    Margaret Thatcher here stands as the exception that proves the rule. As a right-wing woman, she was largely immune from sexist critique, precisely because the left was leary about opening this door. Moreover, she fully embraced one of the acceptable modes of being for strong women — the overbearing school ma’am who knows that what the kiddies need is a firm hand — spare the rod and spoil the child. The boss class was very pleased and the right more generally loved her brutishness. In this case, she was able to reconcile bullying conduct with an acceptable (sex-based) identity. She was of course married (to a man widely seen as “not wearing the trousers”) and had children, thus ticking the box for authentic rightwing womanhood. Gillard, being unmarried and childless, doesn’t tick these boxes — and of course it is mainly the right who are seeking the ouster of her regime. They of course, can say anything.

  76. Alan :
    The problem with this position is that we are not talking about Gillard’s belief or disbelief. We are talking about her active opposition to a carbon price as deputy prime minister. Like you, I care very little about the private beliefs of political actors. I do care about the political acts of political actors.

    Actually if you care more about carbon pricing and less about politics, you should care much less about the historical details of the positions held by the various key players and much more about their contemporary beliefs. That’s fundamental of how such controversial policies are “sold” to the constituency or how effectively the constituency is educated about the facts. If the leadership has a complete disinterest in the science as has been proven beyond any doubt, then the champions of the cause will always be fighting an uphill battle.

  77. @Fran Barlow
    Fran, go and do an implicit association test for gender (google it). That measures the degree to which you associate women or men more with leadership, intelligence, or whatever other qualities the researchers are interested in. IAT measures correlate well with a variety of other measures, including electrical potentials in the brain and degree of activities in fear related areas of the brain (wrt to negative attitudes toward blacks). They also predict behavior. They predict eye contact, they predict likelihood of listening without interrupting to someone. They also predict a propensity to hire people with the relevant characteristics over others, with everything else held constant. Thee are lots and lots of other things they measure, including how people assess themselves (women underestimate their competence at maths; IAT scores predict degree of underestimation).

  78. @Neil
    I dunno… I just remember Bob Katter’s comment to that question before the last Qld election: (to paraphrase) “I don’t know about this sexist thing, at the moment I live in a State lead by a female Premier, in a country lead by a female Prime Minister with a female Governor General and a female Head of State [insert wispy Katter Chuckle]”

  79. @Neil
    Fran, go and do an implicit association test for gender (google it).

    Neil, I have no wish to deny that people have biases, but I gotta say I think you’re reading way too much into those tests.

    I did some of them a couple of weeks ago (I think someone linked to them in another thread on this blog or over at LP).

    Specifically, I did the tests on gender, aboriginality and sexual preference bias. My results rated me as having a bias towards women, aboriginal people and GLBT people. I am a white, heterosexual male.

    Sorry, I just don’t think the results of the tests are reliable.

  80. @Tim Macknay

    And even if the tests were ‘reliable’ (i.e measured something like sexism and could quantify it) they still wouldn’t tell us about how it mapped to actual conduct in the real world in every context or the numbers of people that fit the model, and if it became modified and less significant overt time etc …

    Measuring mental states is a tough gig. I’m ready to stipulate that a good many people (and not merely men) are predisposed to marginalise women in many settings and likely to map these attitudes when it serves some wider perceived interest of theirs.

    Going beyond such generalities is unsound, IMO.

  81. Times have changed. Sexism used to be in your face. These days complicated psychological tests are needed to unearth its entrails

  82. I agree that it’s too strong to say we are all sexist, but would still definitely say that criticism of JG as both incompetent and devious feeds into sexist stereotypes.
    On which point, re Rudd and the CPRS: it could not get through in the first place because the Greens would not support it, and they have been quite clear that was because it was too weak. Then Rudd, who was the PM, chose not to go to a double dissolution. If people here are saying it was JG who made him do that, as you seem to be, it just reinforces my point – she is always to blame in your eyes. By your reasoning as far as I can see, if JG makes a mistake it’s her fault, no matter who advised her (and rightly so in my opinion, she is the PM), but if Kevin Rudd made a mistake, it was Julia Gillard’s fault as well. Doesn’t cut it as a defense against bias.
    By the same token, I’ve just watched some videos of JG campaigning in 2010 and they are awful, so I have to concede that (although I thought John Howard was a total embarrassment and that didn’t stop him from winning). I hope and think that she has grown into the role since them, if only she could get some clear air.
    Re some of JQ’s earlier comments, from my perspective Rudd spent two years undermining Gillard (longest dummy spit in history) and got away with it at least in part because of these perceptions of her as devious etc. if she had stepped down, even when he did not have the support of the majority of caucus, it would have been a terrible precedent.
    @ John Quiggin
    You say that JG has never supported a price on carbon. That contradicts both her public statements and what she has in fact done, so again it seems to me to suggest bias. I would prefer to accept the more economical explanation that what she said was actually true – she supported it but thought there needed to be a community consensus about it before it was introduced. I think if people are going to make such strong accusations, there needs to some pretty strong evidence to back them up, oherwise it does look like bias.

  83. Oddly enough your skepticism does not move me in the face of a mountain of data, just some of which I have mentioned. It does predict real world behaviour. I’m afraid your response is no better informed or grounded than the skepticism of climate change deniers. I will stick to the data, you stay with your gut feelings and frankly uninformed criticisms.

  84. Val,
    I’m certainly not suggesting Rudd is a saint. Yup, he certainly has been undermining her in many phases of this current term as have other key players of the ministry and cabinet which is pretty poor form.
    However, she has publicly conceded herself that she held a political gun to his head to drop the CPRS. BTW: the allegation that she never has supported a price on carbon was one I made, not JQ IIRC. Yup, she has publicly stated her support for the “deal” promised to the greens (of course she was obligated to), but why don’t you ask former Chief Scientist Penny Sackett about Gillard’s *real* desire to act on climate change! Please note the difference between *actions* that are forced on politicians and *actions* that aren’t but are in the interests of the constituents they represent. Why hasn’t she implemented any of the suggestions listed on this blog by clever people like Ken Fabian (IIRC) to sell or educate the electorate on the science of climate change?

  85. I am almost computer illiterate but I reckon the NBN looks like a good pick for a winner long term. Why not pause some of the superannuation tax breaks for 3 or 4 years to pay for some of it.

    I think the govt has lots of problems that add up to a 30% poll number. They are all interrelated but a short list in order
    1) news ltd media
    2) Incumbency – bad news stories adding up over the years
    3) moving to the right
    4) Labor white anting – Crean, Rudd etc
    5) logistical / PR errors of policy implementation – errors and angry state govts etc
    6) boats
    7) gender bias – works both ways

    I just noticed that T Abbott is not on the list !

    As far as unconscious sexism goes I think many people don’t like to admit that kind of possibility as it implies radical doubt in general terms once its admitted. IAT empirical evidence isn’t the only path to that end.
    Casting doubt aside , i would like to see some government do a bit of social engineering of the populace away from useless consumption . They would not be advised to call the department resposible ‘the department of social engineering ‘

    The gender card is Abbotts because he and his mates are the ones who keep talking about it . Gillard stayed away from the issue for ages . If Obama mentioned race as a factor he would be flogged with it forever too.

  86. Let’s all agree that reactions to female and male politicians are different, and that there is probably some net disadvantage for women. Still, lots of women have achieved high office here and in comparable countries, so the net disadvantage can’t be decisive. Similarly, Labor governments have generally faced a hostile media, but have still won their fair share. And virtually all political leaders have ambitious subordinates hoping to fill their place (mostly with less justification for “disloyalty” than Rudd, who was, after all, only repaying the favor in kind).

    Gillard’s government is currently polling at 29 per cent. Whatever is going on here, it’s more than can be explained by generic references to media and gender bias, or by demonizing Kevin Rudd.

    Again, I’ll ask – is anyone actually willing to defend Gillard on the merits? If not, isn’t defending her on the basis of her gender damaging to the whole idea that women should be judged equally with men.

  87. I’ve just been looking over your article “Sceptics and suckers: A look back at Iraq”. Very poor, in my view, and in marked contrast to your economics essays.

    Aside from all the poor arguments to support the claims of WMDs you fail to register on fundamental legal principles:

    (1) There was never any immediate threat of military attack from Saddam, especially against the US.
    (2) There was no UN mandate authorizing the invasion.

    Absent these two items, the war was totally illegal. All 28 of the UK Foreign Office lawyers wrote to Tony Blair before the invasion telling him exactly that.

  88. @John Quiggin

    Don’t disagree with any of that (I hope that’s clear), except that of course in some situations small differences can be decisive because margins are tight. The case of Gillard is not one such situation.

  89. @damien

    WTF? Are you saying that the post is poor because I only mentioned the arguments that were decisive enough for me to oppose the war? Obviously there was no immediate threat (there were no WMDs!) and obviously the war was illegal (UNSC 1441 demanded inspections and Saddam agreed). You’re upset because I didn’t spell out every single point? This is a blog, not an encyclopedia.

  90. To pick another issue that would be on my list: “Pokies”.

    ALP promised Wilkie that he would get ‘reforms’, then dudded him as much as possible until all he got was a sliver of what he wanted – THEN refused to take it to the house of reps because “it wouldn’t get the numbers”.

    I think I’m not the only person who remembers, consciously or subconsciously, that episode.

    Rightly or wrongly I imagine a lot of people would see that as ALP walking away from a promise to placate powerful money interests (as well as their own “mates”).

  91. @Val

    On which point, re Rudd and the CPRS: it could not get through in the first place because the Greens would not support it, and they have been quite clear that was because it was too weak.

    The greens did not have the balance of power in the senate until 2010. One of the great myths of the Gillard defence is that the CPRS could have been strengthened and passed with Greens support. The reality is there not enough Green senators. The CPRS was crafted to try and draw the Coalition’s support. Unlike Gillard, Rudd did not have the luxury of a friendly senate.

    Gillard is exalted by her defenders for dealing with the cross-bench in the house, although they have broadly supportive. Rudd is damned by Gillard’s defenders for dealing with an unfriendly senate violently opposed to most of his program. Like a lot of the Gillard defence, the exalted Gillard legislative record is preposterously counterfactual.

  92. Exactly, the reason the CPRS was so weak initially is because to pass without liberal support it required xenophon, the greens and Steve Fielding (an active denier) to pass through the senate. If Rudd had the senate that Gillard has to deal with I suspect a lot of the issues around his apparent ‘inaction’ disappear, conversely if she was dealing with his senate then almost all of her achievements probably evaporate.

    After all we can’t just gloss over the fact that she largely implemented leftover policies from the Rudd era

  93. To add to this point, along with gifting a massive liberal majority in the HoR Gillard’s government seems likely to setback her potential successors with the collapse in the senate. A right-wing HoR might only last a few years but we’re stuck with this senate for two terms regardless

  94. @ John Quiggin
    I’ve actually listed quite a few things I think JG has done right, in several posts. You’ve ignored them. Your acceptance of sexism is also really begrudging, it’s hard to believe it means anything. I’m really surprised and disappointed by this.

  95. I guess my starting point is that I don’t think an Abbott victory is inevitable, and I certainly don’t think LNP control of the Senate is inevitable. I think people on the left should be doing what we can to prevent it. Labor and JG are not perfect and in some ways they are appalling, but they are what we’ve got to work with. Of course we can first preference greens or even socialist alliance in my electorate, but we still have to put ALP before LNP at some point unless we actually want Abbott to win. If that happens, we stand to lose the carbon price and the NBN, we’ll go backwards on school funding equity and super and probably on private health insurance (they will all become more inequitable and more regressive) and that’s just for starters. The bigger victory Abbott gets, the worse it will be. And I stand by my positions:
    That the continual bagging of JG from the left is contributing to the rise of Abbott
    Sexism and bias against women has been an enabling factor in the bagging and undermining of JG
    As for all this stuff about who had the best policies, who thought of them first, Rudd or Gillard, it’s BS. Sorry, but it just is. All of those policies I mentioned have been through huge amounts of development and debate. They don’t belong to any one person. Whether we preferred Rudd or Gillard just seems to me irrelevant now. I’ve worked with JG, and she’s a good manager and a good team leader, so I can understand why people chose her in preference to Rudd, who seems to have been a bit of a nightmare. But whatever the reasons, it’s happened, and it seems to me the best we can do is accept it and get on with working to ensure Abbott does not take over or at least his victory is minimized.

  96. Also I apologise it looks like I’ve misrepresented JQ’S in an earlier comment – I can’t seem to scroll back far enough through comments to double check, but I accused JQ of saying that Gillard had never supported a carbon price, and apparently it wasn’t JQ who said that. My mistake, sorry.

  97. @alan @tyler …

    This apologia “Rudd had a hostile senate” radically misstates the practical politics. Had Rudd moved swiftly to implement Garnaut, the Libs would have rolled over — Abbott was pressing for this option and with the polls as they were in August 2009, they were never keen on a double dissolution in November. The Libs didn’t find their courage until Rudd began playing silly games with the policy in order to undermine Turnbull and freeze out the Greens. He overplayed his hand and lost and then wasn’t willing to opt for an s57 resolution.

    Rudd was revealed as an empty suit when push came to shove.

  98. @John Quiggin

    It is said much better than I could by Paola Totaro in the Guardian in an article entitled, “Australians don’t know how lucky they are” and begins, “A leadership threat to Julia Gillard seemed churlish – given the strong economy – but disgruntled Australians are a common breed.” I don’t dare post the URL and the article is un-cuttable and pastable. Maybe people can google it.

    Although I really don’t like growth and most of the things that the article praises, most people would because that’s what our mass media praises in other politicians, but not in Julia.

    I like the fact that Gillard’s government is now free of a lot of old heavies who were sent to the back bench after the last ridiculous Rudd attempted coup. There will maybe be more room for new ideas. I keep a faint hope that Gillard might actually try something new and ecologically sustainable. This almost certainly means that I am a poor deluded fool, but Gillard’s predecessors were even less likely to do so. Gillard has promoted Kelvin Thomson, who I like because he really does like the Australian environment and wants a small population. He is also really smart in my opinion, so that is a small indication from my own slight experience, of her displaying good judgement.

    @John Quiggin asked me whether I think “cutting uni and TAFE funding (but not payments to wealthy private schools) to pay for school funding is a good idea? If so, make the case.”

    I liked the last budget because it cut taxes for the poor. The universities seem to have become huge dens of commercialised corruption and too expensive already and seem mainly to be used by foreign students. I think there should be fewer vocational courses and more core theoretical stuff, which vocation can then be built on. I think policy on them since Keating has been terrible. Julia has to use what she’s got to work with in the parliament. Could she be reducing the power of the old guard that supports business as usual in the universities?

    Don’t all labor governments subsidise private schools – notably Catholic ones because they get votes from the poor catholic students and the churches are so powerful in persuading people which way to vote? (On the other hand, after the pedophile revelations, I am surprised that any of them still have pupils). Public schools certainly need funding. They are a great concept, poorly honoured. TAFEs – not sure where I stand on that one, but Howard also cut their funding, didn’t he? There are a lot of overpriced and light-on courses in the TAFES, although not on the scale of the universities.

    Similarly with 457-baiting, cuts for single parents, equal marriage, Afghanistan war, US deputy sheriff, citizens assembly, cash for clunkers etc etc – Murdoch and Fairfax didn’t make these up.”

    Well, I approve of reducing immigration. I think population growth and infrastructure expansion is suicidal in a world reliant on fossil fuel that is depleting rapidly. The 457 visas not only accelerate this process, they are used to avoid employing and training locals. They contribute to high housing prices, spread of infrastructure, higher cost of living and taxes, in my view (possibly not yours).

    I thought Rudd was the biggest joke out with the commercial propagandists he paraded at his Australia 2020 (or whatever it was called). I hated his Big Australia project. It was ignorant and pretentious and there was no chance of real democratic input. I was also really bothered by his association with Labor Resources and Labor Holdings.

    So the best thing that Gillard did was get rid of Rudd, or at least fill the space so that he could not come back. I admire her courage in surviving his attacks and those of Rudd’s cronies. I like the fact that she does not ostentatiously want to ‘put Australia on the map’ and that she quietly surprises – for instance in her recent trip to China. She is no coward.

    Equal marriage is something that Gillard did not support herself. I can see it for what it is – a territory grab by the ALP – for voters who might otherwise vote for the Libs. For me it will be yet another skewing of our inheritance laws, but they are so stuffed anyway that there is little point in getting upset. I don’t believe in romance as a basis for marriage but I can understand why gays would want to have equal rights to spousal superannuation etc. I would chuck our entire system for the Napoleonic one, so I’m not going to get excited about this.

    Cash for clunkers was pretty dumb when keeping old cars on the road reduces materials use and entropy. But Gillard was probably dog-whistling the car manufacturers, no? She has to talk to them; they represent a huge related employment sector the size of which constantly amazes me as I drive in outer suburbs. All the pollies deal with them in a similar way.

    I liked the Citizens assembly idea and was disappointed that it did not take off. Anything that sounds like participatory democracy appeals to me. However I know that such policies are put out there, along with her remarks about not wanting big populations, to attract votes rather than as sincere policy previews, unfortunately.

    She didn’t start the Afghanistan war, which I agree is an appalling thing to continue. As is the one in Syria that we are funding. But no-one else has tried to stop the Afganistan one either. John Howard was the one that got us involved in that war.

    Oh, the single mothers funding withdrawal … I do not know enough about it.

    There you are – a revelation of my eccentric voting values. What does it really reveal? That I pay absolutely no attention to the Murdoch press and am completely unbothered by the things that seem to get most peoples’ goats and which are endlessly discussed re Gillard, and that I like her courage, even if I know she won’t deliver on the big things that I want.

  99. @Val
    I have a great deal of sympathy for the notion that in some circles, a) legitimate disenfranchisement with the PM can lead to a minimisation of just how appalling Tony Abbot is and b) that sexism plays a role. I’m hardly qualified to guess about the overall gender bias or lack thereof of anyone here so I’ll leave b) alone, but I’m a quite amazed at the suggestion (if I read you right) that commenters here are guilty of a).

    Are you really proposing that all of the comments on this blog put together are going to result in a single extra vote for Abbott? This sort of community (relatively well informed and progressive) is precisely the place where we should be *most* critical of the ALP. Otherwise we’ll be in danger of mimicking certain other political corners of the internet that just descend into online echo chambers

  100. @Val

    I’ve said this before, particularly in the context of Queensland – but it applies here as well, everything that happens after the next federal election is the ALP’s fault.

    They have had far too many chances to avoid losing the election. They have come up with nothing better than: “When we do neo-liberal free market fundamentalism it’s different” & “Abbott will be worse”.

    PR spin and working social media with asinine talking points will only get them a few percentage points but unless they pretend (convincingly) to stand for something substantially better than what the LNP will (presumably) deliver, your point just isn’t going to get through.

    “Support Gillard because she isn’t Abbott” is about as powerful as “Support Abbott because he isn’t Gillard” – and sadly, that seems to neatly summarise our political duopoly’s election campaign strategy.

    We have 5 months until the election. An Israeli lead war on Iran (which would of course be blindly supported by both the ALP/LNP and Murdoch/ABC) would perhaps be this ALP government’s “Tampa” or “9/11” or “children overboard”. Unfortunately, die-hard ALP supporters would applaud that “victory” just as loudly as Howard’s did.

    I assume I’m not talking to idiots and I assume they know this but want black to be the new white and up to be the new down etc..

  101. @Neil

    Neil, I am not overtly sexist. The studies and methods you mention would no doubt uncover unconscious and implicit sexist attitudes in me. I am currently aware, in principle, of sexist attitudes in me. After detailed studies of me and detailed reporting of the studies results to me and even counselling of me, I would be better aware, aware in more detail and perhaps behaviourally more capable of preventing my unconscious sexism from affecting my actions or behaviours at least in some respects.

    Now, let me ask a rhetorical question. Given my very strong left wing views (many examples in this blog), do you think I could ever support any person (female or male) who sides (and even conspired in my view) with oligarchic, capitalist mining bosses against the workers?

    The substantive fact is that Julia Gillard’s government’s policies are anathema to me and scarcely distinguishable from general neoconservatism IMO. Were I to be the mythical man with zero sexism but still my same left vs right political views, I would still trenchantly reject Julia Gillard and her policies.

    However, given that sexism in the general population is another thing J.G. has to fight, it’s another argument against her adopting neoconservative policies scarcely distinguishable from Abbott’s. She is handing it to the conservatives on a plate. The sexist conservatives say oh well we might as well have a bloke conservative.

  102. @Ikonoclast
    Answer to your rhetorical question: probably not. Friese (2012) – in PLoS One, and therefore open access – found that explicit attitudes predict voting intentions better than implicit attitudes. I don’t think that’s surprising. All I ever said is that it is very likely that negative implicit attitudes explain some – I stressed small – proportion of even well-justified responses to JG, probably by making them harsher than they would otherwise be.

  103. @Sheila Newman

    I keep a faint hope that Gillard might actually try something new and ecologically sustainable. This almost certainly means that I am a poor deluded fool, but Gillard’s predecessors were even less likely to do so.

    I’d not be so harsh, but I would say that your hope has no basis at all. Left to her own devices, Gillard will do exactly nothing of substance in this area, because almost all those keen on it will vote ALP “in the faint hope”. Moral hazard applies, and the ALP can afford to ignore you and pitch at people with the opposite view.

    The universities seem to have become huge dens of commercialised corruption and too expensive already and seem mainly to be used by foreign students.

    Oh for pity’s sake. “Dens of corruption”? “foreign students”? “Kelvin Thomson”? Population policy? “reducing immigration”? You really are pitching at the Lindsay crowd. It ‘s ugly and it won’t work.

    I liked the Citizens assembly idea and was disappointed that it did not take off. Anything that sounds like participatory democracy appeals to me.

    This would not have been anything of the sort. It was simply an artifice for burying the issue of carbon pricing during the election which, had she somehow won the election in her own right, she’d have used to do exactly what Rudd did — dropkick it down the road.

    What does it really reveal? That I pay absolutely no attention to the Murdoch press and am completely unbothered by the things that seem to get most peoples’ goats

    Given that the Murdoch press is running hard against “foreigners” {“boat people”} and “Big Australia” I don’t agree that’s so.

  104. @Fran Barlow

    What you say is completely accurate. It does not, on the other hand, alter the senate numbers that Rudd faced or create a path by which a cleaner bill could have been passed with Green support when the Greens did not have the balance of power in the senate. Val’s claims about Rudd, but not yours, are factually incorrect.

    Apart from wishing Rudd had not caved on the double dissolution, I really wish he had invited Gillard and Swan to test their opposition to the CPRS in caucus. there was no prospect that they could have succeeded and no prospect that they could depose Rudd until he threw away the CPRS and his electoral standing with it.

    I also agree with you about the citizens assembly. Kerry O’Brien repeatedly asked Gillard what would happen if the assembly voted against the science of climate change and she was unable to give an answer. Citizens assemblies on electoral reform have been successful in the Netherlands, somewhat less so in Canada. It was an extremely silly idea to refer carbon pricing to a citizens assembly and was just classic ALP Right governing by being seen to be doing something.

  105. @Megan
    You argue that there is no real difference between liberal and labor and that they are both neo- liberal free market fundamentalists. The point is, labor actually are not free market fundamentalists. Since Hawke and Keating they have adopted neoliberalism to an arming degree, I agree with that, but they still see a role for government in preventing inequity (to a degree) and in promoting public good. The NBN is actually an example of that, although I don’t think the message is being well- communicated. The LNP aren’t in practice free market fundamentalists either because it would be politically dangerous, but like Campbell Newman there, or Kennett previously here, they will probably go as far down that road as they can. If you haven’t done so, I urge you to google the IPA manifesto – it’s hard to find on their website so try something like ‘IPA key points’. Those are the people that Murdoch, Rhinehart and Abbott are closely associated with.
    In terms of the long term project of freeing Australia from the dominance of neoliberalism and free market fundamentalism, I completely support that and am trying to address it in my PhD, as I mentioned. Happy to have further discussions about that, but you won’t convince me that personalised and implicitly sexist bagging of Julia Gillard is going to contribute to that project in any way.
    @ John Quiggin
    I found your comments re Hawke, Keating etc very interesting, but there is nothing that compares with saying, five months before an election, that the labor prime minister will soon be “nothing more than a bad memory”. If you said anything like that about Keating in 1996 for example, that might be more convincing.

  106. This blog, as good as it can be, continues to astonish me with the depths of its pro-Rudd revisionism. I can assure you that based on real-life, unscripted remarks I’ve heard in conversations, the gender bias against the PM is very real. That being said, I don’t think it is even the main issue.

    I don’t care what people’s unconscious biases are on this blog, but in my view it’s clear many here:
    (i) grossly underestimate the influence of the hostile mainstream press (News Ltd, Fairfax, ABC, which set the agenda for TV & radio)
    (ii) grossly overestimate the extent to which people hate the PM because of some cosmic policy reason
    (iii) are in complete denial about how difficult Rudd was to work for (read the two big James Button articles in Fairfax) and perhaps think the only thing important to governing is philosophy – without any need for the practicalities (negotiation, dealing with people, managing staff, being efficient & organised, etc)
    (iv) are quick to criticise the PM, often with justification, but hold her up to standards of perfection not applied to anyone else, and without a necessary sense of ‘realpolitik’
    (v) are convinced that a Rudd Govt was, and would be, more left wing, when there is absolutely no evidence for this apart from asylum seekers

  107. @Val Here’s what I wrote in the Financial Review, just before the 1996 election, in a piece which presented Keating and Howard as the joint architects of micro reform.

    After fifteen or more years of Howard-Keating government, it is obvious that the electors are heartily disillusioned. The dominant feeling appears to be the desire to give Keating and Labor the well-deserved hiding they escaped in 1993. As the day of decision draws closer, however, the lack of enthusiasm for Howard and the Liberals becomes ever more apparent. Independents and minor parties such as the Democrats and Greens will do well, but in the absence of any serious prospect of forming a government, or even an opposition, they cannot to provide a real alternative. Many in the electorate would no doubt like to put both major parties equal last. The recent jailing of Albert Langer for advocating precisely this course of action shows just how intolerant the major parties are of any challenge to their duopoly.

    That’s actually stronger than my view this time around. I’m definitely advocating putting the Liberals last. And if I had any belief that Gillard could beat Abbott, I’d be backing her to the hilt, regardless of her policy failures.

  108. “without a necessary sense of ‘realpolitik’”

    Where’s the realpolitik in sticking with a leader who is pulling in 29 per cent of the vote? To repeat, if Gillard was doing what was needed to beat Abbott, I’d hold my nose and support her.

    The fact is that, with Labor as it is now, realpolitik is about squaring various union heavyweights who suppose (wrongly, in my view) that they can benefit by controlling the party even if it means handing government to Abbott.

  109. @Martin Spalding
    All good points Martin and (mind you) most points I and others have raised on this blog in the past too. I will add: the difficulty of dealing with a hung parliament is an absolute nightmare for a PM. Especially having very little scope or authority to discipline bad eggs within your own caucus (which effectively extends to the cross benches in some respects).

  110. I don’t think you’ll find anyone here who under-rates the malignant influence that the right-wing misinformation brigade at news ltd have on Australian politics Martin.

    Beyond that i doubt we’d have seen cuts to university funding/single mothers etc out of a Rudd government. The mining tax might even have raised a bit of revenue! As an added bonus they probably wouldn’t have utterly capitulatd on the refugee issue and might even poll higher than 45% occasionally

  111. Pr Q: ‘Where’s the realpolitik in sticking with a leader who is pulling in 29 per cent of the vote?’

    For a blog that focuses so heavily on policy and ideas, I am surprised at how much you and several commenters here focus on the polls. Poll-driven political behaviour is one of the No 1 problems with politics today, and one of the key factors in the ‘NSW disease’ that characterized the NSW Labor Right, a group you have rightly denounced many times.

    This issue should have been Point (vi) in my list above: excessive reliance on polls as measures of policy worth, and (inherent in this) a view of voters as ‘rational actors’ who think in policy terms & are unaffected by media bias. This to me is very misguided. Politics is like ‘Aust Idol’ to many people, and the popularity or otherwise of politicians (incl Rudd) is vaporous and not based on facts.

    Changing leaders because of poll numbers also plays right into the media’s hands – they love this stuff. They would do it time and time again even once a Rudd honeymoon Mk II wore off. Given Rudd’s weakness at critical moments (CPRS & spills 1 & 3), what gives you the impression he would have the internal steel this time?

  112. @Val

    Are you sure your assessment that anyone who criticise Julia Gillard are sexists is not at the same level as as anyone who believe in global warming are communists? Also, is not criticising a bad policy (or self perceived bad policy) because of the political party any different to rightwing tribalist?

  113. “Changing leaders because of poll numbers also plays right into the media’s hands – they love this stuff.”

    I’m from Queensland, where Labor stuck with Bligh and asset sales to the end, despite appalling poll numbers.

  114. Hope is a wonderful human quality – it is probably essential to maintain reasonable mental stability. Nevertheless we should try not to let hope triumph over experience, or indeed over empirical evidence.

    The chances of Labor ever adopting reformist ecological or social policies are evidenced by its instinctive, implacable hostility to the Greens, whom the party has often attacked more vigorously than it tends to treat the Coalition. If you want to get a good indication of what Labor thinks of environmental sustainability (not to mention hear lots of overt sexism), you need go no further than your local Labor Council. Spending time with trade union officials will give a much better understanding of core Labor values than working in an office in Canberra.

  115. @John Quiggin

    I’m from Queensland, where Labor stuck with Bligh and asset sales to the end, despite appalling poll numbers.

    It was the asset sales (along with a few other issues*) rather than the sticking with Bligh that was the problem.

    * The health system payroll mess, Jayant Patel/Bundaberg Hospital;

  116. Colleague has just pointed out what should have been obvious to me – pro Rudd positions on this blog probably reflect that a lot if you are Queenslanders and have an emotional attachment to Rudd – the hometown boy who got done over. I’m not trying to put it down and I can sympathize with it, but I still think people have to get over it.

  117. @John Quiggin
    The difference between what you said about Keating (et al) and what you say about Gillard is that one the one hand you are analysing what voters think, and on the other (“bad dream”) you are expressing a personal view. It’s a really important difference.
    I’d say real politik says you should support (or at least stop bagging) Gillard anyway at this time, even if you don’t think she can beat Abbott, in order to minimise his success. Otherwise you are playing into the hands of the right wing media.

  118. @Fran Barlow

    Agreed – but given Bligh’s inflexibility, the only way to stop the asset sales was a spill, or the threat of it.


    I think you’re setting up impossible tests here. I’m violently critical of Hawke and Keating and you say it’s not close enough to an election. I impute to voters a view with which I obviously sympathise and you say it’s not first person.

    Why can’t you accept that I make political judgements based on political actions rather than because I’m a sexist, and now apparently, a parochial Queenslander. Looking at my records, I wrote only favorably about Gillard from her entry into Parliament until she came up with the Citizen’s Assembly – which turned out to be a fairly typical initiative from her (I was out of the country when she replaced Rudd, and held my judgement afterwards to see how she would turn out).

    Still, on the realpolitik, you’re right. To the extent I can motivate myself to do any election commentary, I’m going to advocate Greens 1, Labor 2, and focus on the need to put Abbott last.

  119. I’m from Adelaide, can’t say i think of myself as a parochial Qlder terribly often 😉

    No one would be silly enough to suggest Rudd was perfect, a number of the initial failings of this labor government can be sourced to his timidity on several fronts. However given the apparent loathing he faced internally his hesitation makes an awful lot of sense and was as it turns out eventually justified (from his perspective at least).

    What some of us look on fondly is a brief time where a labor leader was popular and willing to spend/cut back some of the more egregious Howard policy directions without totally compromising the left’s moral position on issues like refugees. The political trainwreck that Gillard looks likely to preside over only heightens the sense of nostalgia, if he looks good now imagine what we’ll think after a term or two of Abbott.

  120. @Val

    I have to tend the still, check my fur traps and then make sure I get to banjo rehearsal on time, so I’ll have to be brief:

    I’ve never been “pro Rudd”. In hindsight I assess Gillard as genuinely “worse than” Rudd on policy and actions – (not gender or postcode).

    I always maintained that sacking PMs is something Australians feel some attachment to doing themselves rather than have others do it clandestinely and think that Gillard’s despatch of Rudd was probably one of the most ill-advised and politically foolish acts in our political history.

    Getting over it is not something I need to do. All my criticism of Gillard stands and nothing offered has caused me to feel I should shut up and blindly get behind Gillard.

  121. @Megan
    Ha ha Megan that’s very funny. I’m not trying to be insulting and I certainly don’t want anyone to get “blindly” behind Gillard. It’s just that I, like some other commenters on this site, am struggling to understand why apparently well-informed and well-meaning people on this site persist in apparently counter-productive bagging of Julia Gillard that seems to play directly into the hands of the right, from my perspective.
    One of the things I believe is that people are motivated by feelings as much as (or more than) reason. That’s not an insult, it’s a valuable thing and part of our common humanity, but I guess we have to be self-aware. In trying to understand why people would act this way, emotional attachment to Kevin Rudd seemed to be a possible contributor. By saying “hometown boy”, I wasn’t trying to make a hillbilly reference either! Sorry if this still sounds insulting or patronising, it’s honestly not intended that way.

  122. @John Quiggin
    I’ve replied to Megan re the ‘parochial Queenslander’ stuff but I just wanted to respond briefly about the sexism. I completely understand how if you interpret what I am saying as blatantly calling you “sexist” it is really an insult and that’s not what I intend. Neil has gone to huge amounts of trouble to try to explain about implicit bias and I’m not going to go over all that again, but it’s just really common for women to be judged as both less competent and more devious than men, and it’s extremely hard to avoid the conclusion that it is happening on this site. It’s incredibly frustrating to see the mess Labor’s in and the mistakes they keep making, and as leader Gillard needs to take responsibility, but that’s different from people on the left just (even if inadvertently) falling back into convenient sexist stereotypes and saying everything is just the fault of one incompetent individual. Anyway I’m really glad if your focus is moving off what’s wrong with Gillard and on to how to prevent a far right takeover.

  123. Val in my experience most people react badly when a stranger starts commenting on their character, motivation, intelligence and so on based on laughably inadequate data. Moreover as has been repeatedly pointed out in this thread, political actions can be analysed having regard to the evidence, independently of the reasons why people might put forward one argument or another. Your persistence in trying to focus attention on people’s motives is starting to come across as nothing more than sophisticated concern trolling.

  124. @Ken_L

    (Mostly) in support of Ken, it is worth noting that if we couldn’t escape, to some extent, our prejudices and biases we would not be able to be so confident that they play a significant role in our thought. If you can’t know anything with reasonable certainty, you can’t know that you can’t. Implicit attitudes are decisive in two kinds of situations. One is non-expert judgment where people don’t have a clear idea of what basis to make a choice on. In these circumstances, they may (without realizing it) make up the criteria they then apply by reference to gender (so you have two applicants for a job, one male one female, and they have very different cvs. You might think the man’s qualifications are the relevant ones, when you only think that because of gender). I think it is very likely that this plays a role in political decision-making by people who are not engaged with politics. The second place implicit attitudes can be decisive is when experts are making very close calls. There is a famous study looking at auditions for a symphony orchestra. Women violinists were more likely to be selected if the audition was held behind a screen. There is no way the people making the choice would choose a merely competent man over an expert woman, but confronted by two plays of nearly equal expertise, they may wrongly perceive the male as better.

    All of this is to say that I suspect that implicit attitudes play a very small role in the topic under discussion for most of the people actually engaging in it on this blog. In the minds of people who are less engaged and less informed, I think it will be quite a different matter.

  125. “* I know, this quote attributed to Thomas J Watson is apocryphal, as is a similar one attributed to Bill Gates, but lots of similar statements have been made in reality, and they’ve all proved to be silly. For example, I can remember people saying in the early 80s that 8-bit address space of 64k (a double octet) were all we would ever need. Many more people said, well into the 1990s, that graphical interfaces were an unnecessary luxury and that personal computers would always start with a C:> prompt.”

    Not sure if this conflicts with your point or complements it (maybe neither): Coupla years ago I was chatting to an ex Telecom/Telstra engineer from back in the 80s-90s. Apparently back (sometime during that period) it was pretty much considered that 2400 baud (or something in that ballpark) was the physical maximum achievable through copper wires- ie. it was considered within the engineering community to be essentially impossible to exceed that rate of data transfer through copper.
    Just more of an interesting piece of trivia than anything else.

  126. In the minds of people who are less engaged and less informed, I think it will be quite a different matter.

    For intelligent, englightened types like yourself inherent biases play a minor role but for the unwashed masses it is quite a different matter?

    An interesting claim to make. Unsurprising, but interesting.

  127. I confess! I lived in Queensland for a while! But it was only Brisbane! How can I wash myself clean of this stain on my soul?

  128. @Ken_L
    Hi Ken, I wasn’t commenting on anyone’s character or intelligence, just trying to understand motivation. I think calling me a troll is pretty harsh and unjustified but maybe I should take a break, you have got me really worried now.

  129. I don’t know about sexist, but I thought it was well overdue that we finally have an atheist as the prime minister of Australia. Just a pity about the manner on which it happened.

  130. John Quiggin :

    After fifteen or more years of Howard-Keating government, it is obvious that the electors are heartily disillusioned. The dominant feeling appears to be the desire to give Keating and Labor the well-deserved hiding they escaped in 1993.

    As the day of decision draws closer, however, the lack of enthusiasm for Howard and the Liberals becomes ever more apparent.

    Independents and minor parties such as the Democrats and Greens will do well, but in the absence of any serious prospect of forming a government, or even an opposition, they cannot to provide a real alternative.

    John , You too seem to believe there is a silent majority out there that did not want either the Hawke-Keating reforms despite re-electing them a few times and vote for Liberals for want of an alternative. This silent majority parks their votes election and election with the right wing parties as a way of signalling their willingness to go hard left?!

    Is this missing party willing to campaign for
    • a reintroducing of the two-airline policy?
    • bank re-regulation to reduce competition and increase bank profits?
    • high tariffs on cars, electrical goods and clothes?
    • media regulation that outlaws cable TV – and no ABC2?
    • give telecom its monopolies back along with a mobile phone monopoly too?
    • repeal of the GST?
    • 66% tax rates again on the middle class, and
    • a buy back of the Commonwealth Bank, Qantas and Telecom?

    When the shooters party, new DLP, family first and Nick no pokies win seats ahead of you, it is time to accept that your message against economic reform simply does not resonate with the electorate. Complete amateurs can win seats.

    The post-1986 economic and fiscal reforms are an example of a political system converging onto more efficient modes of income redistributions as demanded by the middle-of-the-road voter as the deadweight losses of taxes and regulation grew.

    Improvements in the efficiency of taxes, regulation and spending reduce political pressure to suppress the growth of government. This prevented cuts to both total tax revenue and spending.

    The post-1980 reforms saved the welfare state. Economic regulation lessened after 1980 but social regulation grew unabated.

  131. @Val
    I’m not at all convinced by the statistical evidence given in these “implicit bias” tests on populations. The results you discuss could just as easily be explained by a small subgroup of people being VERY sexist, rather than the whole population being slightly sexist.

    On tests performed on only one person, very often no bias against women is revealed.

    I really don’t like this kind of “collective guilt hypothesis,” that we’re all a little bit of sexist. It seems to tap into the same kind of psychological need to feel ashamed of ourselves that’s exploited by the Catholic church.

    “You’re dirty, rotten, and sinful from the day you were born, but there’s good news! The Church is here to make you slightly less horrible. It won’t completely cure you, and you’ll need to keep repeating the mantras every day, but it will help.” It’s easy to see how this kind of thing is useful for the survival of the meme, but it’s not at all clear how it helps the meme’s hosts.

    Just replace the word “Church” with your particular brand of identity politics, and this is essentially your position. The best part is, people like JQ have no way to prove they aren’t mired in original sin. In fact, his denial is only proof of his disinterest in, and hence probable hostility towards (your version of) Feminism!

    FYI, I hate Gillard, but marginally less than Rudd, and a lot less than Abbott.

  132. @Jim Rose
    I’d actually be happy to support the last 4 points you raised, but I’ll just talk about Telstra/Telecom here. Are you really arguing that the privatisation of of Telstra has been anything other than a complete disaster and fiasco? Where have you been for the last 20 years?

  133. @Sam

    ‘On tests performed on only one person, very often no bias is revealed”

    I’ve been working professionally on this for a decade and I know of no evidence to substantiate this claim. Please enlighten me!

  134. @Jim – I agree with about half the items on your list. I’ll leave you to guess which.

  135. @Neil
    Well Tim Macknay for one. Lot’s of people I know personally take these kinds of tests and are judged “non sexist.” If you’re saying you have evidence against this, and that in almost all cases an implicit bias against women is revealed even when the test is done on just one person, please show it to me.

  136. @Sam

    Sam, I have cite pd extensive evidence already. There are a number of review papers available on the web, on researchers’ websites. Look for instance at Anthony Greenwald or Nilajana Dasgupta. As I have said, the overwhelming majority of people have at least unconscious moderate biases against women. There is a reason we cite evidence, from controlled experiments, and not anecdotes. First, Tim Macknay is not “lots of people”. Second, he was not the subject of a controlled experiment. In year 11, I had to replicate Hooke’s law in physics class. I failed: I got results inconsistent with the law. Surprisingly, the text books have still not been undated to celebrate my major advance in physics.

  137. @John Quiggin So you are Hawke Keating lite. I am so disappointed. An undercover Tory Wet!

    So you do not want to just step in a time machine and go back to the good old days unvarnished. Prove your mantle by campaigning to close down Jetstar.

    Some had the courage of their convictions, recently saying

    The 70s was Britain’s most equal decade.

    The jobs that went during the 80s tended to be good, skilled jobs, delivering decent incomes and some security. [Thatcher] failed to replace those jobs with well-paid equivalents

    I visited a carpet factory with the rest of my HSC economic class. The idea was to motive us to work harder and go to university for otherwise this is where we will end up working.

  138. I only mentioned Tim Macknay because he was on this thread, as an obvious example. The whole thing seems like quackery to me. There seems to be lots of criticisms of it’s use and wider applicability, and plenty of disagreement among experts, see for e.g. here
    Once this kind of thing has near unanimous expert endorsement, I’ll be interested. Until then, I’ll think it’s just one more fad in experimental psychology.

  139. @John Quiggin One of the nice things about late 20th century Australian politics is only sad political junkies can even name the religions of most political leaders.

    the Christian and the family parties spent more time fighting each other to form into any sort of long-term effective political force. All members of these parties want to be the leader; all of them think they are the chosen one. Few want to be the adoring followers.

    Interest in religion fell away inside a generation in Australia.

    One reason is fragile networks. If a lot of people are religious, it pays to be religious as there is plenty of company and things to do. When network good use falls below a certain level, the value of the network good collapses? who wants to go to a half empty rock concert or church?

    One study pointed to the opening of malls as a major dampener on church going. More interesting places to go at the weekend opened up.

  140. To Fran Barlow –

    What is the Lindsay crowd?
    I find that research from universities has gone downhill because it is narrowly commercially oriented. I recently had to help a disabled Australian navigate two units of an Australian university degree and found the bureaucratic money grabbing machine of administration seemed to have almost entirely taken over academic freedom. I watched as my friend’s lecturer, presumably through fear of performance black marks, dragged my friend and so many other students across a pass-line that they could not get over themselves due to the university’s investment in hugely expensive, crappy and bug-ridden microsoft cloud technology. In sociology I watch as every year the output gets narrower and more commercial. There is almost no history. Geography is now all about commercial planning. Far from impressive. And the universities prolong the post grad degrees of foreigners and push the locals out because the first are cash cows and the others cost money. I compare this situation to a time when universities were owned by taxpayers and you could get an education there. Universities that court numbers from overseas and invest in housing them and fleecing them seem corrupted to me.

    You write that “Given that the Murdoch press is running hard against “foreigners” {“boat people”} and “Big Australia” I don’t agree that’s so.”

    You seem to take my desire for a small population to be a reaction to boat people, however it isn’t. There are many greater sources of population growth here.

    Where, I wonder, do you get the idea that the Murdoch Press is against a big Australia? It invests in a big Australia; it is part of the growth lobby. My quals on all this are that I am a population sociologist and I actually identified the growth lobby in Australia. You could check out my thesis which follows the lobbying by the Murdoch Press for greater population growth all through the 1990s and connects this lobby largely to property development here It also goes into the history of similar lobbying back to before Federation. Australian state parliament were then and are now havens for land speculators, full of developers mates who make laws for developers.

    With all due respect, it is a big mistake to think that people who don’t want a big population are all somehow xenophobic. You might check out my recent book, which is Demography, territory and Law: The Rules of Animal and Human Populations, Countershock Press, 2012/2013 (Kindle and Lulu); it is far from xenophobic.

    I mention this research of mine to show you that my reasons are much deeper than you may think.

    With regard to your other comments, you are probably right, unfortunately.

    Fran Barlow :
    @Sheila Newman

    I keep a faint hope that Gillard might actually try something new and ecologically sustainable. This almost certainly means that I am a poor deluded fool, but Gillard’s predecessors were even less likely to do so.

    I’d not be so harsh, but I would say that your hope has no basis at all. Left to her own devices, Gillard will do exactly nothing of substance in this area, because almost all those keen on it will vote ALP “in the faint hope”. Moral hazard applies, and the ALP can afford to ignore you and pitch at people with the opposite view.

    The universities seem to have become huge dens of commercialised corruption and too expensive already and seem mainly to be used by foreign students.

    Oh for pity’s sake. “Dens of corruption”? “foreign students”? “Kelvin Thomson”? Population policy? “reducing immigration”? You really are pitching at the Lindsay crowd. It ‘s ugly and it won’t work.

    I liked the Citizens assembly idea and was disappointed that it did not take off. Anything that sounds like participatory democracy appeals to me.

    This would not have been anything of the sort. It was simply an artifice for burying the issue of carbon pricing during the election which, had she somehow won the election in her own right, she’d have used to do exactly what Rudd did — dropkick it down the road.

    What does it really reveal? That I pay absolutely no attention to the Murdoch press and am completely unbothered by the things that seem to get most peoples’ goats

    Given that the Murdoch press is running hard against “foreigners” {“boat people”} and “Big Australia” I don’t agree that’s so.


    Sheila N

  141. @Sam

    The IAT is one method of measuring implicit attitudes. There are a dozen others that are well validated (priming, ERPs, brain imaging, startle potentiation, spreading of activation, like/dislike paradigms). You stick to your view though. You have the right, just like those people who insist that it was hotter when they were children and global warming is a crock. I’ll stick with the science, thank you.

  142. By the way, John Tierney is infamous for manufacturing controversies. In general, not a good idea to get your science from newspapers.

  143. @Neil

    What is your guesstimate of the negative effect for Gillard by virtue of her gender alone?

    By that, I mean stripping away the aspects of the approval/disapproval based on everything other than gender (eg: rusted on party supporters, actual policy and actions etc..) so that we could put a percentage figure on it – such as: “If all else was equal, Gillard would have a handicap at the elections of (say) 2% purely attributable to her gender”.

  144. @Neil
    See, this is to me an amusing example of social scientist conceit. You imagine you are on a par with the physical (AKA real) scientists, and you want to be taken as seriously as the grown-ups. As the NYT article shows, reality is usually more complex than the toy environments you construct in your “lab.”

    When you get the sort of unanimity among yourselves that climate scientists have, maybe we can talk. Until then, I’m going to think you’re all a bunch of politically motivated hacks, just like the proponents of race-based intelligence in the ’90s.

  145. The effect of the very early announcement of the election date on the comment pages is much worse, IMHO, than what I had feared.

    My simple mind is at a loss to understand how sexism, attitudinal studies, media management, religion and Jim Rose can be woven into a topic such as the NBN and the copper-end alternative.

    I have simple questions. Suppose Mr Abbott does not take note of JQ’s unsolicited advice after winning the election and the NBN is replaced by the copper-end alternative (three related suppositions). My questions are:
    1. What is a ‘street corner’ in the context of the copper-end alternative? (Recently, boys and girls, with at least one of them being an electronics engineer, assembled in my house considered the possibility of the term ‘street corner’ being highly misleading to residents. Residents understand the notion of the ‘nearest street corner’ but not ‘street corner’ Is there only 1 for Sydney and 1 for Brisbane, etc? Does the term ‘street corner’ stand for the existing nodes in the copper network?)
    2. Who owns what in the copper-end alternative?
    3. Does anybody know anybody, irrespective of age, gender, religion, ethnicity, eye colour, hight, etc, who wants to choose a slower version of the minimum cost NBN? I don’t. (The oldest member in my sample is 89 years old).
    4. What exactly is the plan to have individuals choose a fiber optic connection to their house? What are the costs, who owns the extension, who pays?
    5. Suppose people can, via some unknown mechanism, pay to have fiber optic cables put to their house. Are these people by assumption NOT taxpayers (at least during their working life)? If the answer is No, then why is there a need to discriminate among tax payers (for budget purposes vs internet access purposes)? If the answer is YES, then there is a tax collection problem.
    6. Who would own the privately commissioned fibre optic extension to the house?
    7. Does anybody know anybody who believes the copper-end alternative is a cheaper and faster provision of the NBN? I don’t. (The only answer I received so far is: “It is not the NBN, it is a different thing.”)
    8. Suppose annual budget considerations are given high priority. Isn’t there another alternative, namely to slow down the roll out of the NBN?
    9. Isn’t it conceivable to consider a national major infrastructure program with some flexibility regarding the speed to have the advantage of considering not only the annual budget but also unemployment of various trades and professions over time?

  146. @Ernestine Gross

    Can’t answer your questions, unfortunately.

    But, I can make an observation from personal experience.

    During the late 1990s trucks and crews were rolling about the suburbs stringing up fibre optic cable for Optus and Telstra. You could see the two lines, one just above the other along power poles – a metre or so below the electricity cables.

    When I moved into a house that had a little “Telstra” box stuck to an outside wall I asked Telstra if I they could connect that up for my internet. They denied any such service existed. I told them I could see it, and it had “Telstra” written on it.

    They told me I would have to ask Rupert Murdoch – not directly, of course – if I could have a fibre optic internet by getting a Foxtel TV subscription. I told them I was philosophically opposed to pay TV. They told me they were tired of talking to me and I should contact Rupert.

    I reluctantly rang Rupert and was told I could have a package with pay TV, landline and internet. I said I only wanted the fibre optic cable internet. They told me that was not possible.

    A few years later I moved into another house and repeated the entire episode word for word.

    I still don’t have pay TV, fibre optic internet or a functioning landline phone.

    As a techno-dummy, can anyone explain why all that fibre optic cable lying around all over the country is unable to somehow play a part in our NBN miracle to be?

    If not, I’m probably not alone in wondering whether this isn’t just another massive incomprehensible free-market neo-con con designed to hoover lots of our dollars into corporate pockets so they can own some more turnstiles.

  147. @crocodile

    Thanks, Crocodile.

    Does that mean it is already out of date? I think the whole thing cost about $6billion or so (?).

    I’m getting more and more concerned about the bipartisan consensus that we absolutely MUST rip up our nationwide copper network if we are to have decent internet/communications. That copper stuff has worked for over 100 years. OK it isn’t broadband but it actually worked, we used to own it – and from memory it earned “us” taxpayers about a billion dollars a year before we “sold” it to ourselves and turned it into a disfunctional honey pot that delivers sub-standard everything and plays like a free-market bully rather than an accountable government department.

    This is as clear as a parliamentarian’s disclosure of pecuniary interests!

  148. @Megan

    The copper stuff might have worked OK for 100 years, but only as a telephone service. The Optus and Telstra cable rollout was to support Pay TV. Just so happens that the extra bandwidth can support higher internet speeds as well. It’s not already out of date as the full NBN rollout is a long way off and the Pay TV provider may still opt to use their own infrastructure for many more years to come.

    When I first signed up for email and internet I had access at the blistering speed of 19.2 kbps. Over the next twenty years, the growth in data rate has been staggering. Seems like a natural progression to roll out something faster. Won’t take too long before tech savvy inventors build new devices and businesses to make use of it.

    Have fun

  149. @Megan

    Megan, it really would be a guess. The small grain of truth in what Sam says is that there are so many factors at work in the wild that beyond saying the likelihood is that it would be down (not certainty: there is some probability that implicit negative biases could produce a handicap, but high likelihood) that it is impossible to put a figure on it. Plus I would need a lot of data I don’t have. We have population wide data on Australian implicit attitudes but it is patchy – much better studied among the kind of subjects we have easy access to than among rural populations, say.

    Sam, you literally do not know what you are talking about. The people most heavily involved in the implicit attitudes literature on the ones most heavily invested in whole-field research: controlled lab-based studies backed up by convergent fieldwork, with a multi-level multi-methodology approach. See, for instance, Dasgupta and colleagues work on implicit attitudes toward maths and gender, conducted in the lab and in the calculus classes of a major research university as well. Measures included not only lab-based IAs, but also the interaction between those measures and scores on the actual calculus exam, and the propensity to enroll in further classes. We can explain a large proportion of the variance in both measures by reference to IAs (though of course very far from everything). This is just one example of course (Stout, J. G., Dasgupta, N., Hunsinger, M., & McManus, M. A. (2011). STEMing the tide: Using ingroup experts to inoculate women’s self-concept in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 100, 255–270).

    I do not expect to convince you of course. There is a common response to this kind of evidence. The first response we get from just about everyone is “I don’t believe it”. The second response is “wow, other people are dumb; I’m glad I’m not like that”. I don’t expect to manage to lift you from 1 to 2, let alone to the inconsistent and less than full recognition that just maybe you are like that which is the best that anyone seems able to achieve. In the meantime, I suggest you go and read Watt’s up with that, for their incisive refutations of climate science.

  150. The bottom line is that Australia is becoming a backwater. Australians are largely unware of how far we are falling behind. Spend any time overseas in first world, second world and even some developing countries and you begin to realise how blinkered, isolated, parochial and backward Australia really is. Current neoconservative policy by Labor and Liberals will see us falling further and further behind. Neocon policy is actually a return to bourgeois classical economics before Keynes. These are doctrines nearly 100 years out of date (and wrong from the start).

    Most of the basics that we had right were built in the statist, dirigist, Keynesian era. What is still working are the legacy aspects of those systems and infrastructure we have inherited from that era. It’s clear now in the neocon era that all this is being white-anted and is crumbling.

    We change course or we collapse. It’s that stark.

  151. @Neil

    Thanks Neil. Over the last week I perceived that two big pro-ALP talking points seemed to be:

    “Abbott would be worse”


    “Criticism of the ALP is driven by sexism”

    I was wondering if there could be some quantifiable translation of real gender bias into a figure that would account for an x% ‘discount’ against the ALP to explain the figures shown in the polling. In other words, some evidence for the suggestion that it looks like the impending ALP loss is – in fact – due to sexism rather than policy.

  152. @Neil
    Sorry sent empty comment by mistake. So are you someone who does not agree that climate change is happening? Just trying to make sense of why you referred Sam to the ‘Watts up with that’ page?

  153. @Val

    Hi Val,

    Sorry for the confusion. I was taking a – slightly unfair – dig at Sam. I guess he is not a climate change sceptic. I want to know why he is not a climate change sceptic but feels its okay to dismiss other sciences without any special knowledge of them. The dig is slightly unfair because the level of confidence we should have in the findings of social psychology is lower than the level of confidence we should have in climate science, for lots of reasons. Stlll, the basic situation is the same: go with the science or talk out your ass. So no, I’m no sceptic!

  154. @Val
    No, he’s not saying that. He’s saying that being honestly skeptical of his kind of quakery is the same as being delusional about climate change. I say that genuine skepticism about very hazy fads in the social sciences is actually quite healthy. I further think he’s trying to ride the coattails of the successes of real science to make criticism of his view unfashionable.

  155. @Megan
    I think there has been some research on the disadvantage faced by female candidates although I can’t give references at the moment. However that is not what I am talking about. Nor am I saying that criticism of the ALP is driven by sexism. I’m not an advocate for the ALP and I think criticism of the ALP is quite justified. However what I am saying is:
    – the right make exaggerated claims about the incompetence and deviousness of Julia Gillard and the government. One reason they can get away with this is that these claims draw on or reference (implicit or explicit) sexist stereotypes of women as devious and incompetent (not natural leaders)
    – some of the statements being made on this website about the incompetence and deviousness of Julia Gillard seem to reference the same stereotypes (though presumably fuelled by frustration with her mistakes and apparent inability to cut through or counter the right campaign rather than an actual desire to see the ALP lose)
    – I’m really concerned about this because, even if unintended, I think it does assist the right’s campaign

  156. @Neil

    Hi Neil, I have posted a reply to your comment at Weekend Reflection due to the sandpit being closed and further discussion on implicit attitude seems to be derailing the thread.

  157. Just to make it quite clear – I do not in any way oppose criticism of Julia Gillard or the ALP – what I am opposed to is this exaggerated stuff, what I call “bagging”, which is simply focusing on everything that’s wrong with her, not allowing that she has any good qualities or has done anything right, and implying that, as opposed to say, Kevin Rudd, she is particularly dishonest.

  158. @Ikonoclast

    The bottom line is that Australia is becoming a backwater. Australians are largely unware of how far we are falling behind. Spend any time overseas in first world, second world and even some developing countries and you begin to realise how blinkered, isolated, parochial and backward Australia really is.

    This doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, Ikon. Australia has always been something of a backwater, at least in comparison to North America and Western Europe, but it’s certainly no more of a backwater now than it’s ever been. And as for falling behind, Europe and North America are in a mess, frankly. Asia is growing, but from a low base.

    The Australian media does strike me as being blinkered and parochial, compared with some European and Asian media. But then, when I travel I only read the English language media, which may well be less parochial than native language media in many places, since it’s aimed at an international audience. Media aside, I rather doubt that Australians are comparatively more blinkered and parochial than anyone else.

    I agree that Australia certainly risks falling behind if we don’t invest in the appropriate infrastructure for the future, but I don’t really think there’s much of a case for saying that we’re falling behind right now.

  159. @Ernestine Gross
    Hi Ernestine, I can understand your confusion, but the reason I brought sexism into the conversation is because JQ framed the piece about the NBN (something that I think he is saying the ALP has actually got right) with a dismissive reference to Julia Gillard being “nothing more than a bad dream” in a year’s time. I can’t see why, if you are going to talk about good policy initiatives of the government, you can’t just do that and give the government, and Julia Gillard as leader, credit.

  160. @Neil
    Sorry Neil, I posted that before your reply. As to your question about my alleged inconsistency, I’ll just reiterate:

    1) I don’t have much respect for the “social sciences” in general; indeed, I’m not sure they even qualify as a science. They adopt some of the same procedures and language as real science, but their ideas are fundamentally a lot less falsifiable. So if you ask, why do I accept climate science but not your ideas from social science my answer is, because one is a science and the other just has scientific pretensions. My position is not absolute; I’m prepared to believe certain, extremely well agreed upon results from the social sciences, but if a new idea comes out of the blue in a field like this, the chances are it’s at best temporarily interesting nonsense.

    2) Within your own (for want of a better word I’ll call) “field,” there seems to be genuine disagreement on what the results of your experiments mean. I know warming denialists use a similar sounding tactic to manufacture the false impression of controversy within climate science, but in your case the disagreements seem to be real. The fact that throughout this thread you’ve acted as though you have very high confidence about these conclusions, whereas this confidence seems not to exist in an overwhelming majority of your peers suggests to me you are overstating the case.

    Since the position you’re advocating is an extremely radical and unpleasant one (we’re all prejudiced and there’s very little we can do about it), and there is significant argument between peers about whether your position is really correct, I’m going to default to my natural scientific conservatism and remain unconvinced.

  161. Not trying to restart that debate – I think the discussion between myself and JQ over this has been resolved in earlier posts – just trying to explain how it happened.

  162. One more thing. Unlike Neil, I’m actually perfectly prepared to believe Gillard’s gender is a slight electoral liability. This is because it’s quite clear there is a minority of explicitly sexist people, who actually articulate their sexist views so we know for sure what they think. I’m of course alive to this kind of (actual) sexism, and agree it’s a big problem in our culture. What I’m against is the pseudo-scientific overreach typified by Neil and Val, which says we’re all guilty.

  163. @Sam
    Hi Sam, I don’t say we’re all guilty and I have never have. It’s tiring to be misconstrued so often, I must say. I say that exaggerated bagging of Julia Gillard draws on and references sexist stereotypes of women.
    When I was actually working in a political position, we were told that to get a message through to the general public, you had to keep repeating it till you thought you would vomit if you had to say it one more time. People get really sick of politicians staying “on message” all the time, but maybe this process helps to illustrate why they do it. I don’t know how many times I have been misquoted or misconstrued on this blog so far, but it is an awful lot. Some of it may arise from genuine misunderstanding, but I get the feeling some of it is just a technique for trying to “win” the argument, and as such, I think it’s waste of everyone’s time. Why not just try to engage with what I am actually saying?

  164. Was Pauline Hanson’s gender a liability? I have trouble believing it was. No man in Australia has ever done anything as incredible as going from a fish and chip shop owner to one million votes in the wink of an eye. She also managed to get lots of votes from old fuddy duddys who might ordinarily be considered prone to sexism. Sexism is real but operates in a more complicated way than some would allow.

  165. @Val
    I agree that trying to “win the argument” is unproductive, and I apologize if I sometimes do it myself. I was getting a little huffy on JQ’s behalf, because to me the suggestion his dislike of Gillard is coloured by prejudice is frankly offensive.

    Quiggin has been a tireless campaigner for women’s rights for decades, and it seems very clear to me his criticism of the prime minister is entirely due to her record, and not in the least out of line with his treatment of male politicians. I think it cheapens the debate when you suggest otherwise. When John Quiggin says something like “women are ruining the joint,” or “ditch the witch,” it will be appropriate to accuse him of sexism. Until that happens however, I think you should leave the nebulous psuedo-science at home.

  166. Sam,

    As I have pointed out elsewhere, some of the old fuddy duddys who held “Ditch the Witch” type signs or who at least approved of them, would have voted for Pauline Hanson’s One Nation. As I say, sexism, like most things, works in a complicated way.

  167. @Jim Rose

    “bank re-regulation to reduce competition and increase bank profits?”
    One sentence, two mistakes.

    Deregulation has indisputably *increased* not decreased bank profits. Also, since the GFC (caused by excessive deregulation) almost all the small competitors in the banking sector (St. George, BankWest, Bendigo Bank, Aussie, Adelaide Bank, RAMS, Wizard, and Challenger) have been partly or wholly acquired by one of the big 4, so deregulation has also ultimately *reduced* competition in Australian banking.

  168. @Mel
    It is interesting how actually prejudiced people work. I know people who un-ironically use the N word to be derogatory to aboriginals, but who have black friends.

  169. @Sam

    Sam, I don’t think further discussion is fruitful. I have said all I have to say, and you understand what I say. I also understand your views, and have even conceded that they have a small grain of truth in them (social science is messy, and our confidence in its findings should be lower than our confidence in, say, evolution). You clearly aren’t educable on this topic, but why should you be? Life is short; one can’t learn everything. Maybe one day you will read one of the papers I recommended. If you ever do, I hope it is one of Dasgupta’s. If you will do, you will see that my position is not, as you say, “we’re all prejudiced and there’s very little we can do about it”, but we’re almost all prejudiced and there is a *lot* we can do about it.

  170. @Sam
    “I think you should leave the nebulous psuedo-science at home.”
    wow Sam good one
    First, an apology that ends with an insult is not convincing. Secondly I’m doing my PhD in nebulous pseudo-science at university, so I can’t leave it home. The association of woman and home has been around for a long time, so it’s not surprising that you made it, but it is still unfortunate (at the risk of introducing yet another bit of nebulous pseudo-science, Freudian slip much?). Thirdly, when you are trying to have a serious discussion about sexism, it’s not a good idea to patronise a woman.
    Like Neil, I am going to end this discussion, but I can’t resist the opportunity to be a bit of a smart arse (I think I can be excused) – there’s hard science and soft science, eh Sam, and real men do hard science?

  171. @Neil
    I agree further discussion is pointless. I respect you enough as a person to tell you frankly that I don’t respect your research, or even your field. I’ll continue to believe there’s probably nothing to be “educable” about here until this sort of thing is generally agreed upon by experts and used regularly in (for instance) court rooms.

    To misdiagnose the nature of prejudice, and say we’re all guilty, is just another way of saying none of us are guilty. The truth is, there’s a number of people who are explicitly racist, sexist, or homophobic, and that minority makes the world worse for everybody. We should be disinfecting the clearly filthy, not histrionically washing our hands to rid ourselves of some non-existent stain.

  172. @Val
    I’m sorry you thought I was apologizing, you should know that as a male I could never do such a thing.

    This has been an entirely unproductive discussion, and one I agree we should terminate. I must say I find this kind of po-mo infection into the public discourse quite infuriating. I’d prefer a straight (whoops, there I go again!) argument with an old fashioned conservative to being smugly told I’m the enemy by self righteous intellectual impostors.

  173. @Sam
    Ok this really is the last. I’m sorry I was a smart-arse. But during this conversation you have put words in my mouth, denigrated my knowledge, questioned my right to express opinions, called me names and patronised me. Regardless of whether it’s sexist or not, Sam, it’s honestly a crap way of arguing.

  174. Time to call a halt here, I think. If anyone really wants to continue, they can post contact details in the sandpit

  175. @Val

    I walk a mile barefoot to stay away from people in some so-called social sciences, those who put others through frames while maintaining these people ‘framed’ something. To put it clearly to you so that no confusion can arise: It is you who selected ‘the frame’ about which you complain.

    I post on this thread rather than on the sandpit, as suggested by the owner of this blog-site, because I definitely do not wish to be contacted by you.

  176. @Tim Macknay

    I am going to have to rush this reply, so I won’t be checking all my contentions nor giving sources. However, IIRC;

    (1) 1902, Australia was first independent country to give women the right to vote in national elections was Australia in .
    (2) 1904, the Australian Labor Party forms federal government. The first labour movement in the world to attain government.
    (3) 1907, Harvester Judgment – court ruling that established the right to a basic wage – a ‘fair and reasonable’ minimum wage for unskilled workers of 7/- (7 shillings).
    (4) The post-WW2 boom, 1945 – 1971 saw our lowest sustained unemployment.

    I can’t find the facts now but I believe at one time Australia had the highest per capita income in the world or close to it. Now, we see we are slipping down the world ranks (education recently discussed in this blog) in many measures (though not all measures).

    Yes, the neocon infection which has hit the anglophone world has hit us.

  177. @Ikonoclast women could vote in NZ from 1891. NZ was self-governing from 1852.the conservative parties led the charge to give women the vote.

    Women could vote in frontier states of the USA from the 1870s.

    Frontier areas gave the right to vote early to attract female migrants

  178. @Ernestine Gross
    Ernestine I’m new to this blog but as far as I’m aware going to the sandpit is just a way of continuing the discussion off the main thread. No one except the site owner can contact you unless you give them your contact details. So if you really have to send confused and unpleasant emails about me, that’s where you should do it. By the way. John Quiggin does not disagree that he framed the blog post with a dismissive reference to Julia Gillard. My argument was not, at least originally, that in doing that he was necessarily being sexist. My concern is that:
    A lot of right wing attacks on Gillard in the media are sexist, or draw on sexist stereotypes (eg of women as incompetent, devious and not natural leaders)
    There seems to be a lot of exaggerated denigration of Gillard (what i described as bagging)on this site, from people who appear to be left
    I’m concerned that that gives credence to the right. I’m not saying we should not criticize Gillard or the government, but it should not just be bagging, and when they’ve got something right, like the NBN, I think we should give them credit for it.
    I’m not going to respond any further to you on this thread because JQ has asked us not to continue this conversation here. If you want to say anything further you can safely do so in the sandpit. However could I ask that rather than being rude to me personally, you engage with what I am actually saying. Also please note that I don’t normally describe myself as a social scientist, and I don’t even like the term much. If you are going to use it as a general term however, it does actually include economics, ie professor Quiggin is a social scientist in that broad sense.

  179. @Val

    a lot of exaggerated denigration of Gillard

    Then it should be easy for you to provide a small handful of examples without having to look too far?

    I just don’t think the criticism of the ALP here (from “people who appear to be left” – note) is exaggerated. Exasperated, maybe.

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