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Following Hamas' atrocities in Israel, the media are awash with commentary, so I will keep my comments short. I am shocked by the willin...

Tuesday 20 December 2016

EOY reflections

looking back on the year just passed it is easy to get stuck in the short term crises on which the country spent much time. On greyhound racing, post election reflections, senate reform and One Nation selections, on 18C and Mediscare lies, domestic violence, and the use of 'guys'. Many of these held the us hostage for but a few days or weeks, then lapse into the background.

However one of the main themes throughout the year has once again been war and terrorism and the flood of asylum seekers be they refugees, or economic migrants into Europe. Multiple terror attacks in France and Belgium, a storm of sexual assaults in Germany, the closing of borders in Hungary, Greece, Italy in response to the mass migration have exposed the failure of the world to address the unraveling of law and order in the Middle Esat and North Africa.

It is a challenging time.

The Europe of old is being transformed and may never be the same again. Merkel, by her open-door policy has perhaps sealed its fate. Anit-immigrant sentiment is fertilizing the rise of nationalism and right of centre parties are back in favour. We know what that led to in the past. Perhaps not this time. But it highlights a moral dilemma for all leaders of Western democracies; "who is to receive priority, the citizens of the country they lead or the immigrants at the door?" What value do you give to preserving the culture and customs of the country you lead? Does its preservation deserve priority over suffering humanity? Opening the doors to large numbers of culturally different migrants will inevitably change the country and may well disadvantage its current citizens, but can you morally close your doors to those in need? In facing this dilemma Europe's leaders do not speak with one voice. It is straining the union and may well tear it apart.

Certainly it had a major impact on the Brexit decision, the first of the two major political cataclysms of the year. Despite all the predictions, despite the one-sided advocacy for the Bremain vote by the commentariat, despite most polls, the British voters did the unthinkable, they voted to leave the EU. It was and remains a surprise. The post-fact rationalizations are many and varied, but irrelevant. The picture is clear. A majority of voters decided that their future was better served without the EU. This clear rejection of the EU cannot be blamed on just a single issue, like immigration, although it no doubt had a part, but it is a judgement on the value and consequences of EU membership over decades. Having experienced the intrusion of EU into their daily lives Britons have decided they prefer to go it alone. The consequences are yet to be seen.

That brings me to the second political cataclysm of the year, the election of Trump. An arduous 18 month election carnival has resulted in one of the greatest upsets of all time, the election of a millionaire businessman with no political experience, and serious personality shortcomings to the most powerful position in the world. He has not yet taken his seat, yet his election has already changed everything. The air is filled with right wing elation and those who had been silent in the face of Obama's socialist agenda are out peddling their wares. The share-market too has shrugged off all negatives to ascend to heights never expected, especially after a Trump victory.

The appointment of the various cogs-of-state by the president-elect have received scrutiny and the predicable acclaim and critique from the supporting and opposing parties. Yet, the critiques by the democrats have not been as fervent as expected. Little surprise since the defeat in both houses means there is little they can really do about it. But also they are still busy trying to overturn the election of this 'unacceptable' president-elect. Mm do I recall the democrats complaining pre-emptively that democracy would be thwarted by a losing Trump? Clearly a case of pots calling the kettles black.

The ripples from the Brexti/Trump anti-establishment, anti-media, anti-norm are still spreading throughout the world and no doubt more counter-establishment upheavals will follow. In Aus too the Right is in the ascendant with a new bounce in their outspoken voices. I feel it too. While I have reservations, a lot of reservations about the unsavory and egotistical Trump, I have welcomed the home truths his election has confirmed; -
  • The media is advocating rather than reporting, dictating rather than reflecting,
  • the commentariat is one sided and fallible, 
  • ALL people want to be represented in public discourse, ignore their needs nd they will turn on you. 
In short a direct "up-yours" to the establishment norms. It is a collective negation of order, sentiments usually reserved for the youthful. Yet of course it makes things less predictable, less orderly. Que Sera.

In Aus the political year started with such optimism and yet closes with such pessimism. The Turnbull government was riding high in the polls at the start of the year with plenty going for it, newly found poll success, a popular prime minister engaged in tax reform and an expansive economic agenda based on innovation.

Barely 12 months later, after an election that saw it lose its large majority, it faces a hostile senate with a larger number of unpredictable, populist senators and with no chance of passing its more important budgetary measures without debilitating amendments.

It highlights the serious problem with a multi-cameral system. How can the elected party govern when the senate can thwart all legislation. Yes I know this is a well worn argument and that despite this governments have managed in the past. Yes, but it is worse today, not only because of the number of cross-benchers, but due to the news cycle that elevates this motley crew into heroes, and especially so if they manage to exact some concession in an piece of high profile legislation, irrespective whether the concession is beneficial or not. Mr Hinch's intervention in the ABCC legislation is a prime and most disappointing example.

It is doubtful that such a senate will allow the deep cost cuts required for any reasonable balancing of our books. Yet Trumps' injection of confidence has raised the markets and this will help Aus's growth. Against all odds it may be Trump who saves us.

It has been a very full year with sufficient drama to fill many a reality show. Despite all our challenges, the sun is shining, and the Xmas slowdown beckons. I look forward to a break.

Thank you readers for the positive feedback and indeed all the feedback over the year. I hope I have kindled some debate out there.

I wish you a Merry Christmas and a healthy and peaceful 2017.

Thursday 8 December 2016

Orwellian doublethink

Those who have visited these pages from time to time would have come across references to the Prager University, a right of centre think tank reaching out to its audience by an extensive range of short videos. Their videos cover all the hot topics of the day, presented by experts in their field.While they advance the Republican, Liberal, world view, even if you do not agree with their conclusions you will learn from these well researched short presentations.

So why am I selling this today? For some reason my phone under the instructions of Google Now selects articles for me to read. Yes this is the type of 'invasive but helpful' technology that is taking control of our lives, but that's another story
One of today's selections  "Youtube bans another Prager video" piqued my interest. The banned video is titled "I was taught to hate the Jews". I accept that the title is provocative as it clearly refers to a racism. But after watching the video I am bewildered. The content is clearly an argument against racism.  Yes, it may contradict the accepted beliefs of some people.  Yes, it may be an 'inconvenient truth' for many. Yes, it may upset many of Youtube's audience. But is it racist?
What is racist about a person pointing out that he was indoctrinated with a racist view? How can we ever redress racism if we censor those who speak up against it?
How can we ever redress racism if we censor those who speak up against it?
I note that following protests from many Youtube has now re-instated the video, but why was that necessary?
In the same vein why is it necessary to censor some 17 other Prager University videos as 'unacceptable' when they clearly do not present material that breaks moral standards, they do not incite violence or vilification of any group gender, race or religion. All the videos present a point of view supported by reasonable arguments and facts. Indeed more often than not there are references to source material that support the facts. The only basis I can see for the banning is that the Google, Youtube or indeed the specific employees making these decisions happen to find the opinions expressed contrary to their own world view. This however is not how we expect those charged with dissemination of information to behave. Indeed by doing so they are betraying their users. No doubt there will be a consequence for so doing.

We live in a strange world where the very organisations that encourage open free communication believe it is appropriate to censor what information is presented.

The very idea of banning a video for racism when it is clearly about fighting racism is nothing short of Orwellian 'double-think'.

Tuesday 29 November 2016

A rational perspective

In Towards Heaven or Hell I presented my perspective on the direction our civilization is heading. Despite the current chaos and despite all the threats to humanity, my conclusion was that whatever we have today is better than we had in the past and yet tomorrow will be better still. Given the very obvious challenges confronting us this optimistic view is counter-intuitive and many do not share my view. Yet I have found one, a most articulate one in Matt Ridley. In his 2013 Kemp memorial lecture, he covers all the reasons why civilisation feels threatened, yet offers strong, compelling reasons why we should be optimistic. So much so that you should not read the rest of this post but simply watch this video.

The 30 minutes is well worthwhile. If you don't have the time here are some snippets from his presentation.

We are much better off today than at any other time in history

  • In 1800 the living standard of the average Brit was about that of someone in Mozambique today. People died of starvation and disease by the 10's of thousands every winter.
  • In 1800 you had to work 6 hours on the average wage to buy a candle that would burn for an hour, today you have to work for less than 1/2 second to earn the money to switch on a lamp for an hour.
  • Over the last 40 years life expectancy has increased by 1/3 and child mortality has fallen by 2/3 globally, income per head has trebled in real terms.
  • Both the rate of poverty and the number of people in poverty is falling at a higher rate than at any other time in history.
  • We are not only healthier and wealthier than ever before, but we are happier, safer, cleverer, cleaner, better fed, kinder, freer, more peaceful & more equal. Life satisfaction increases with wealth both within and between countries.
  • Death rates from storm, floods and droughts have fallen by 98% since the 1920s.
  • IQ is increasing in most countries and so is participation in education.
  • Air and water pollution are dramatically reduced in wealthier countries. A modern car emits less pollution at 70 mph than a parked car, with the engine off, in 1970, because of leaks from the fuel tank.
  • People are giving more to charity as a proportion of income than ever before.
  • More people live in democracies than under autocracies than ever before.
  • Fewer people died in warfare in the first decade of this century than any other decade since the early 1940's. 
  • People in poor countries are getting rich much faster than the rate at which people in rich countries are getting rich. This is closing the gap between global gaps between the rich and poor.

The future always looks bleak

Riddley recounts the range of threats to civilization he lived through in the 1970s, including ; - 
  • population explosion was unstoppable
  • mass famine was imminent
  • a cancer epidemic from chemicals in the environment was going to shorten lifespan
  • the Sahara was advancing at a mile per year
  • the ice age was returning
  • oil was running out
  • air pollution was choking us
  • and a nuclear winter would destroy life on earth

It always looks bleak but doesn't turn out that way

"As Lord Macaulay put it, “in every age everybody knows that up to his own time, progressive improvement has been taking place; nobody seems to reckon on any improvement in the next generation. We cannot absolutely prove that those are in error who say society has reached a turning point – that we have seen our best days. But so said all who came before us and with just as much apparent reason.
“On what principle is it that with nothing but improvement behind us, we are to expect nothing but deterioration before us?” 
People always think they living in a world about to change and things will get worse. But history teaches us that it doesn't turn out that way. There is no rational basis for believing otherwise this time either.

The only reasonable conclusion is that the current positive trends in our collective quality of life will continue. We have good reason to remain optimistic about the future.

Monday 28 November 2016

Super needs real reform

Although the new superannuation legislation is still 'hot off the plate', this new incarnation is far from ideal. Despite ever larger contributions, the average worker even after 40 years will end up relying on an aged pension. This is a far cry from the picture painted by Keating/Hawke when superannuation was first introduced.

Keep an eye on the prize

In order for a worker to be fully self-funded in retirement their Super fund balance at retirement must yield an annual income greater than the Aged Part-Pension cut-off.
Lets call this target balance the Self Funded Retirement Threshold. Today with the Aged Part Pension cut-off at just below $50,000 pa, at a yield of, say, 5% the Self Funded Retirement Threshold (SFRT) is $1,000,000. 

All superannuation policies should be focused on every retiree reaching this super balance.

5 Changes to Improve our Super

This objective leads us to consider a wide range of changes that can both lower the burden on our welfare budget and yet increase the number of workers achieving self funded retirement.

Here are 5 suggestions; -
  • Taxation discounts on super contributions should be capped. There should be NO tax discounts on super contributions if the projected balance is greater than the SFRT.
  • Super fund annual contribution limits should increase as the employee approaches retirement . There is no cost to the government in doing this as the tax discounts automatically cut off if the projected balance is greater thant SFRT
  • Retirees should not be allowed to withdraw a 'lump sum' from their Super if by doing so its remaining balance would fall below the SFRT
  • Government could issue a government guaranteed Superannuation Bond (SAB) with a fixed rate of return above inflation, say 5%.  There are two benefits to this approach. The government receives a ready source of funds in return for the tax 'discount' on super contributions. Funds that can be used for long-term infrastructure projects. At the same time the individual receives a guaranteed inflation adjusted return on at least part of their super contributions. There should be strict rules pertaining to this special purpose SAB. Here are some suggestions; - 
    • Any SAB investment cannot be withdrawn till retirement and its value at retirement is the inflation adjusted value of the sum invested, ie no capital gain. 
    • The maximum value of investment for any individual would be limited to the SFRT. 
    • The government could manage the SAB to reduce debt and to fund infrastructure projects. 
  • It could be mandatory for Super funds to purchase SAB as part of their annual contributions. This 'compulsory' contribution could be equivalent to the value of the tax discount provided on Super contributions. eg if a worker contributes $10,000 in any year to his super and has saved $1500 in tax in making this contribution he would have a mandatory contribution of $1500 to the SAB. 

No doubt more changes will come

Given the legislation has just passed the senate, it may seem that these suggestions have missed the boat. I guess in the short term that is true. But have no doubt the pollies have not finished fiddling with Super for long. Most likely it will be revisited in the not too distant future for another tax grab. Then again who knows, perhaps the inspiration fairy will strike some future PM with the fortitude to guide the parliament to sensible, long lasting Super reform.

Wednesday 9 November 2016

Don't Panic!

I happened to catch the last few minutes of the ABC's QandA last night. The topic at the time was Climate change. It was the usual one-sided ABC panel with the usual one-sided audience clamoring for immediate action against carbon pollution. It is the greatest "moral challenge of our time", "without real action today we are facing climate disaster!" the various calls coming across as rather shrill.

Of course there was the sacrificial token representative of the 'dark' side. In this case it was James Paterson a rather youthful Victorian Liberal Senator. During the few minutes I watched he acquitted himself well, responding with commendable equanimity in the clearly hostile atmosphere.

I was struck by the passion of the climate change advocates, the foam-in-the-mouth, frothy passion, the no-argument-or-discussion-is-allowed passion, the disgust-for-anyone-wanting-to-question passion.

These are without doubt intelligent people, who on any other subject would listen to the information, seek alternate views, apply some filters as to the veracity of the information and then come to a balanced judgement. But it seems that with Climate change it is different. Yes it is a cliche to call it a religion, but I do recall from decades past I did note the same visceral passions in the occasional discussions on religion.

As I have noted in my earlier posts, my own beliefs have evolved over the past year. (See the Climate Change page for a list of my posts.) I have been swayed from the most foreboding predictions of "runaway" climate change by just a few observations.

  • The Earth's average temperature has been more than 5C degrees higher than today and yet it supported a rich biodiversity.  For example, during the Jurassic period the average temperature of the Earth was ~25C. This is a full 10C degrees higher than today. Yet during the Jurassic life was abundant. So what is so special about a 2 degree rise from the current average of ~15C. 
  • CO2 concentration has been much higher than today and yet the Earth supported abundant animal life. Again during the Jurassic CO2 concentration rose to >2500 ppm yet supported life. 
  • The historical record shows no evidence of a "tipping point". The geological record shows a wide variation of temperatures and CO2 concentrations (see Graphic above). Yet there is no evidence that there is a "Tipping point" whereby if the CO2 concentration exceeds some threshold there is a runaway temperature increase. On the contrary the geological record shows cyclical changes in temperature and CO2 concentration with most temperature higher than today. 
So lets all calm down. Yes, there is global warming. The earth has been in a steady warming period after the mini-ice age of the early 17th century. Yes, it is probable, but not certain, that man made emissions of CO2 are contributing to this warming. It is possible, but again not certain, that if our civilization can reduce its emissions, we could mitigate some of the temperature increase. Indeed it may even be worth doing this in a sensible, equitable and gradual process. After all I am all for sustainability.

But there is no need to overreact. The world will not end in a ball of fire if we fail to control our emissions. Planet earth will not turn into Venus if we fail to close brown coal power stations in Victoria next year. Nor indeed can any of our virtue-signaling state governments on their own make any measurable impact on the Earth's temperature. Neither can all of Australia. It requires a coordinated world effort to make even an iota of difference. Will such a coordinated effort occur? We are yet to see.

My expectation is that our significant investment in energy research will generate breakthrough technologies. Technologies that provide abundant base-load energy at lower cost than fossil fuels. When that happens the world will quickly shut down fossil fuel power stations without any coaxing.

We do have time. Even if the world carries on business-as-usual our civilization will survive a 3 degree increase in temperature and a doubling of CO2 concentration. Indeed it would be a warmer wetter and greener world, perhaps more pleasant that today's. 

QandA's shrill calls for no-holds-barred-urgent-action remind me of the advice printed on the "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" , "Don't Panic!"

Monday 7 November 2016

Lifetime ban-ter

What's so wrong about a lifetime Visa ban for asylum seekers who had tried to enter Australia by boat? The proposed ban would prevent anyone who has come to Australia by boat from re-entering anytime in the future, even if they have citizenship from another country.

Sounds pretty harsh! After all it could be 40 years from now, when that person may have won a Nobel prize, and wishes to enter for a holiday. I guess these are some of the arguments.

But let's considers some facts; -
  • The government has a right to do this. The Australian government has a right to determine who enters the country, and certainly can and does prevent persons of 'doubtful' character from entering. So this declaration is not really novel.
  • The person has had fair warning. The Australian Government has already stated that no person who enters Australia by boat will be settled in Australia (courtesy of the Rudd ALP gov in 2013). So again this is not really novel.
  • It encourages re-settlement. While NZ has offered to accept some asylum seekers, the Australian government has not allowed this option as the open border between Aus and NZ would enable asylum seekers to circumvent Australia's stated policies. This would inevitably feedback to re-start the boats.
  • It hastens closure of the offshore processing centres at Manus/Nauru. While the proposed change will not suddenly empty the detention centres it will encourage asylum seekers to leave voluntarily. By firmly locking the door to settlement in Australia some will inevitably opt to return to their home countries, while others may receive the chance to be-settled in countries such as NZ.
While it may not serve the political purposes of the ALP /Greens and refugee advocates, the legislation can help asylum seekers and there is little downside.

Asylum seekers would far prefer to have an option for re-settlement in a country like NZ, Canada or US than hold-out on Naure/Manus for an indefinite period.  So by arguing against this measure asylum seeker advocates are arguing against the interests of those they claim to support!

Sunday 23 October 2016

Warmer, wetter and greener

This weekend's Australian featured an article by respected author and science journalist Matt Ridley (Is climate policy doing more harm than good?) and quite coincidentally I came across the YouTube video of his presentation at the Royal Society just a few days ago. However, for some reason, the video has been removed from YouTube. Should I suspect censorship? So please read the article.

Ridley's argument is most compelling. He argues for a middle road between the two extremes of the climate change debate. He presents a cogent case for a world that is warming due to man-made emissions, but at a slower rate than models have been predicting and is far from "catastrophic" but potentially heralding a warmer, wetter and greener world. 

Nor does he contradict the IPCC. Rather he demonstrates that the IPCC presents a range of outcomes depending on a range of scenarios, assumptions if you will. Therefore his own, more positive prediction is within the range predicted by the IPCC. 

I have written at some length on Climate Change, including a statement of my own position (see Credo on climate change). Since that time some 15 months ago I have read extensively on the subject both from the advocates and deniers, but admittedly I have been looking more closely at the deniers. What better way to evaluate one's position than by listening to those who disagree.

There are many , many intelligent scientists who question "the science of climate change" and for good scientific reasons. As a result I have become more skeptical and I am sensing so has the whole world.

Who knows the dire warnings of "catastrophic" climate change may go the way of many other predicted catastrophes of the past. The 1972 predictions by the Club of Rome that the world could only support 5 billion people, or again in the 70's, the prediction that the world was about to enter an Ice Age. Such predictions may garner attention and indeed funding, but are usually exaggerated.

I prefer the middle of the road, and therefore have found Ridley's position compelling.

Friday 21 October 2016

Malcolm misfires...again!

The week started so well, with all guns aimed at Union thuggery, preparing the ground work for the ABCC legislation Yet it ended so dismally with both barrels emptied into the government.

This has left many in the liberal side of politics shaking their heads and asking "how could this happen"?

Without getting into the details, after all in the fullness of time they are irrelevant. We tend to sift out the minutiae and are left with impressions. The overarching impression is of a government in disarray. No matter who contributed to the problems, the responsibility is borne by the PM who is supposed to lead his party through the great morass of potential problems. Rather the Turnbull government seems to lurch from one political fiasco to another. Week after week Malcolm has been exposed as a weak, vacillating and politically naive operator and the government he leads as lacking focus and discipline.


Wednesday 19 October 2016

Malcolm's mixed messaging

What is he up to? After several weeks seeming to take at least some control and demonstrating some core Liberal values Malcolm is falling back to old habits.

His overseas trip showcased Malcolm the statesman. Mixing it with the leaders of the world he cut a fine figure. Astute, confident and willing to address issues directly and with conviction. He affirmed Australia's position on border control, despite the wide criticism it had received from many, and he "sold" the policies well. He was the very model of the Liberal leader of old, his mentor of sorts, "we will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come".

So too his attack on Green/Labour renewables policies following the unprecedented total blackout in South Australia. He was unwavering and caustic in his critique of the strategy that claims aims for renewables at any cost. Yes, he had a good reason to do so. After an unprecendented total blackout of an entire state, that despite the attempted deflection by the guilty , was inexcusable caused at least in part by SA Labour government policies.

Given his personal stance on climate change, one would have thought it went against the grain for Malcolm, Nevertheless he seemed to enter the fray with gusto and with piercing logic. Of course that doesn't mean the Left simple conceded defeat on the contrary they went on at great volume obfuscating , denying, and generally excusing the inexcusable. Still it was there for all to see, we may all believe in responsible climate change action, many will also believe in renewables, but definitely not at all costs. We must have electricity!

So after this most welcome change in fortune why is he wavering on SSM?  On SSM Malcolm seems to be trying to have it both ways. He avers the stated policy of the government is to have a plebiscite.
He repeatedly re-iterates the facts; -

  • a plebiscite on SSM was taken to the election
  • the government has a mandate for the plebiscite
  • a majority of voters supported the plebiscite on SSM
  • Ireland had a successful referendum that saw people come together

Yet, and it is still causing him enormous political problems. He has not and seems unwilling to state clearly and convincingly that as far is his government is concerned it is the plebiscite or nothing.

He has been given plenty of opportunities to do so. No interview goes by without the press asking him if he will rule out alternatives. He has refused to do so. His apparent wavering has caused the opposition to seize the political opportunity to create mischief. They have refused to support the plebsicite and enlisted their leftist army to attack the government for not letting parliamentarians have an unfettered conscience vote. Yes this is politicking plain and simple. Yet Shorten seems to be on a winner, at least for now.

At this stage it is the government that is being blamed for this 'postponement' of SSM. In the long term that may be a different matter, but for now the game for both the opposition and the press is to make Malcolm blink.

So far Malcolm has stood firm, but is making his own party nervous. They see the wavering indecisive vacillating Malcolm. The politically naive Malcolm, the Malcolm who failed to handle the politics of Tax reform or the budget, or the election campaign with any convincing aptitude.

Leaders are decisive, they command respect by willingness to state their position with conviction.
Malcolm started his reign with great expectations, support from the press and an opposition in disarray.

Yet after 12 months, after a much to narrow electoral victory, his party standing is poor even with its own supporters, the opposition is in the ascendant , and the loyal press though still willing to cut him slack question his political nous.

Although it should have been done a lot earlier, he could simply remove one of the questions of his leadership by simply declaring "on SSM it is the plebiscite or nothing".

Tuesday 27 September 2016

PC pestilence

Funny how things creep up on you. Some words that were once acceptable, even in polite company, have not only changed meanings but have been made totally taboo. Words such as "golly wog", or "negro", or "abo" are now a real no no, and any one using them will be immediately branded a "racist" and shunned.

But really, calm down everyone, They are only words. They are innocent. Their use does not make the user anything but perhaps insensitive to mass criticism. Sure many words have negative historical connotations and their use can cause offence. So as always, "user beware"!

The passion for conformity however nowadays seems to have taken a dictatorial tone. Any expression of ideas contrary to the accepted norm generates explosive derision, a widespread communal attack on the offender and banishment from polite company.

We didn't see it coming!

Words are but one example of an insidious "political correctness" that has come to dominate many aspects of our lives. Our PC straight-jacket restricts the very words we are allowed to use, the ideas we are allowed to express and I guess by implication the truths we are forced to deny, or at least not express.

It is stifling open free exchange of ideas, stifling our free society. Without discussion, scrutiny and debate ideas stop evolving. No doubt that is the intent. To set boundaries around expression and to corral thoughts into the accepted norm to prevent radical ideas from taking hold.

Woe betide the transgressor

We have seen this PC straight jacket applied with great effect. Consider the attacks on Sonia Kruger for daring to suggest Muslim immigration should be stopped. Incidentally, in a recent poll, this view was shown to be supported by half the population. Yet, being one of the first to call suggest "the emperor has no clothes", had her excoriated by the thought police, and even threatened with dismissal. So too Bill Leak for pointing out that aboriginal delinquency had its roots in the home, was attacked from all sides, again irrespective of the merits of his point.

Almost in all such cases the thought police attack the transgressor personally, rather than debate the issue. Transgressors are labeled, homophobes, racists, deniers and worse. Labels serve to denigrate the individual so their opinions can be discarded as unworthy without even the need to provide a counter argument.

Our Universities are failing their role.

Hasn't this always been the case? New ideas are not accepted by the mob easily. Remember Galileo.

I don't think so. Sure there were periods in history where questioning accepted dogma was seriously dangerous to one's lifespan. Indeed this is true in many parts of the world even today. But in Western  democratic societies we had largely moved past this.

I recall in the 60s and 70s of my youth, no ideas were untouchable. On the contrary it was an era when many traditional views were analyzed, criticized and some were cast asunder. It was an era that saw great developments in Civil rights, Pacifism, Women's Liberation, and Gay Liberation. All movements born from free discussion and exchange of ideas supported and encouraged by Universities. Now University students and even academics unite to shout down and shut down discussion of "unorthodox" views.

Consider the attitude to the proposed Australian Consensus Centre on climate change. Despite an offer of federal funding, the University of Western Australia was forced by students and academic staff at the university to withdraw from hosting it. Why? It was perceived that the centre under its proposed head Bjorn Lomborg would give voice to unorthodox views on Climate Change. This is despite the very successful Copenhagen Consensus Centre also headed by Lomborg in Denmark.
Equally telling after the UWA withdrew no other Australian University stepped in to accept the fully funded Centre.

This unfortunately is not unique. Consider the disruption of a presentation by retired British Colonel Richard Kemp on "Ethical dilemmas of military tactics" in Sydney University. invaded by demonstrators including one of the university's lecturers to keep him from presenting his views. Views which were perceived by the demonstrators as favoring Israel over Hamas.

These are just a few examples of a sickness in our society that tries to shut down discussions which may seem uncomfortable.

It is a symptom of malaise, a society wanting to conform and ignore issues rather than fight them.

Successful societies evolve

A vibrant developing and ultimately successful society has to give voice to all views. Let every point of view be given access to the media, especially the publicly funded media. Let every view be presented by those most capable of presenting the views. Then let the arguments fight it out!

The most important consequence of open reasoned debate is a gradual evolution of ideas. Ideas that once were in direct competition evolve to accommodate some opposing views and as a result receive wider acceptance. A society that handles such debates without explosive passion will always evolve. In the past Australia has evolved to become a very tolerant, equitable society that is the envy  of the world.

The unsavory fall into the PC syndrome is hopefully only a temporary setback. We can see signs that attempts to stifle debate are unsuccessful, whether it be immigration or SSM or climate change. The vote in the senate with the election of Xenophon and Hanson. shows that you cannot disenfranchise large minorities.  Now the major parties will have to win back these lost votes by accommodating their views.   

Friday 16 September 2016

I have a dream!

"Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my fellow Australians.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in our Australian values, the fair go, helping a mate and respect for the law.

I have a dream that one day Australians will live out the true meaning of the words " all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day, throughout this sunburnt country, the sons of former convicts, the daughters of former aborigines, and the children of our wide range of immigrants will sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day our institutions, all our institutions, be they our ABC, our Human Rights Commission, our state and federal governments or our judiciary, will renounce discrimination and recognize all Australians as equal.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that all our children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, their gender, their religion, or their political disposition but by the content of their character.

I have a dream.

( with apologies to Martin Luther King Jr - original version here)

Monday 12 September 2016

There is a third choice!

I guess I am like many external observers of the US presidential race, shaking my head grateful that I don't have to select between the two highly undesirable candidates on offer and lamenting the state of US politics that has selected these candidates.

As Dave Rubin put it;
"A broken system ..has given us two broken candidates from two broken parties competing in a broken election competing for control of a nation going broke"
Hillary Clinton is tainted by a range of issues; the Benghazi affair, her incompetence or worse in using a private email server, the Clinton Foundation with ties to various foreign governments, a lacklustre political career, and her pandering to the social justice rhetoric that pervades the Democratic party today.

Donald Trump on the other hand is a bombastic, ignorant, arrogant, inconsistent, rude, and worst of all unpredictable, candidate with absolutely no political experience and none of the qualities we have taken fro granted as essential for leadership of the most powerful nation in the world.

This does not augur well. There is little doubt that one of these undesirables will be president. I shudder.

So is there any option? Well it seems there is a third candidate, Gary Johnson representing the Libertarian Party. I knew nothing of him till I saw his interview Dave Rubin;

Look I don't pretend I know much about him after seeing but a short video, but given the alternatives, he has my vote.

Monday 5 September 2016

Climate Change theatrics, again!

With the recent release of the report Towards a Climate Policy Toolkit by the Climate Change Authority (CCA), the finger-waggers are at it again. Two board members of the CCA joined by vested interests and an unquestioning media, are once again demanding Australia sign up to greater reduction targets than the those made at COP21 some 10 months ago.

But are such calls justified? Certainly not! Since industrialization Europe, the US and China have contributed the most to global warming. So they have to contribute the most to mitigate the impact of their emissions.  Australia, and the rest of the world, have had smaller contributions and therefore their fair share is lower.

Yet, self-serving advocates and the compliant media seem to gloss over these inconvenient facts.

Consider historical contributions

The greatest contribution to climate change since industrialization has come from the USA and Europe with significant contributions by China , Russia and Japan. (see graphic below.)

China is most notable for the speed with which it has become the largest annual emitter and a significant driver of global warming in its own right, despite its much more recent industrialization.

The historical contributions of just 5 countries, if you will permit me to call Europe a country, to global warming is approx 75%. Three quarters of all global warming (to 2011) is due to just these 5. One would therefore expect that the contribution to the mitigation effort should be commensurate. Quite simply if you caused 75% of the problem you should clean up 75% of the problem. You clean up your own mess. Well, let's see.

A vast majority of the pledges made at Paris were based on a nominated percentage reduction of GHG emissions below some baseline rate by a nominated deadline. The actual percentages and baseline dates vary but do not really impact on the problem. At first glance it may seem quite reasonable that each country makes commitments that reduce their own emission rates, especially if the reductions are of the same magnitude, and indeed most countries have chosen roughly similar reductions. So each country is effectively making equal commitments based on their own contribution. That's ok, isn't it?

No it isn't.

Climate change is the result of the cumulative impact of emissions over decades. So any mitigation should relate to the cumulative impact of a country.

But all Paris pledges are based on emissions rates as opposed to cumulative historical emissions.

And here is the problem. The large emitters, Europe and the US, and to a lesser extent Russia and Japan, went through industrialization a long time ago and have had high emissions for a much longer time. Their current annual emissions may still be high, but nowhere near their cumulative impact.

Lets look at the numbers. While the top 5 contributors to climate change represent 75% of cumulative emissions they only represent 50% of current emission rates. (see below)

So pledges based on current emission rates will always favor the earlier industrialized countries. 

But wait there is more

If that were not bad a enough there is a second problem.  GHG emission rates do not take into account the impact of imports and exports. The GHG generated in the production of goods is generally not included in the emission rates attributed to a country. So the producing country  has the burden of the emissions which are enjoyed by the consuming country. Countries like the US and Europe are major importers of high GHG products and therefore benefit from this error, while exporters like China bear the burden in their emission figures.

China is the elephant in the room

But let's not start feeling sorry for poor China. Yes, China can rightly expect an adjustment in their emission rates for the impact of exports, and it is not insignificant. It amounted to some 22% in 2005 and would, I guess be similar today (see my earlier post Seeking a fair GHG reduction target - Part 5: Who is responsible? which presents some of these figures with sources). However, even after adjusting for the exports error, China remains the largest annual emitter, by far.

In any case, China has virtually opted out of any reduction commitments. It has agreed to decrease the carbon intensity of its economy by 60-65% by 2030. But it had already committed to a 40% reduction by 2020, and it seems its extended commitment is really 'Business as usual', requiring it to simply continue along its current path of building more gas/nuclear power stations than coal fired ones.

China has justified its stance on the basis that its industrialization is relatively recent and that it should be accorded the same 'free emissions ' that the rest of the industrialized world enjoyed over the decades. That too may sound like a reasonable argument, but the figures don't stack up. China's Emissions per capita is already equal to that of Europe and also rising fast. So it should increase the standard of living of its citizens as is the case for Europe with no greater emissions than Europe's.

So like many arguments posed in this messy battle for the moral high-ground, it is self-serving, deceptive and false.

What is the fair share?

The fair share of global warming mitigation is for each country to clean up their own mess.

In other words their emissions reductions should be related to their historical contributions NOT their current emissions.

On this measure Europe, the US and China are not doing their fair share and have hoodwinked the rest of the world to contribute disproportionately to the global mitigation effort. Shame on them!

Friday 2 September 2016

Lies , Damn Lies!

I am sure you have seen it , but it may well have washed over you like many a heart-wrenching ad targeted to tug at our already over-stretched heartstrings. It shows a miserable daughter and tearful mother at the funeral of the father and husband who died presumably due to an accident in the construction industry.

Overlaying the scene is the message
"The last time a liberal government had their way with workplace laws one construction worker was killed every week, now the Turnbull government wants to bring back these laws"   - Authorised by Troy gray for the ETU (Electrical Trades Union of Australia)
While even a single death in the workforce is tragic, the cynic in me asked is this really correct?

Perhaps not quite.

Safe Work Australia provides extensive statstics on work place safety including a detailed report title "Work-related injuries and fatalities in Construction, Australia, 2003 to 2013".  The following statistics are taken from this report and the Safe Work Australia web site.

Construction worker deaths never at 1 per week over past decade

Table 10 covers the period 2003 to 2014. In 2015 there were 26 fatalities and 17 YTD in 2016.

Contrary to the claim over the past decade fatalities in the construction industry have NEVER been one per week.

Similarly there is no basis for the claim that the rate of fatalities changed when Liberal government was last in power.

The number and rate of fatalities in construction and indeed other industries has declined slowly over the past decade irrespective of which party was in power. For example, the number of fatalities in 2005 under the Howard Liberal government was lower than that of 2009 and 20011 under the Labour governments of Rudd and Gillard. But the differences are small and unlikely to be statistically significant.

Nevertheless the claims by the ETU seem to be totally fictitious. Their ads are nothing but self-serving propaganda  and in the vernacular of the Trade Practices Act are guilty of deceptive and misleading conduct.  Union's have every right, and indeed, obligation to their members, to promote workplace safety but they also have an obligation to tell the truth.

On this occasion they are well wide of the mark and their claims are simply "lies, damn lies" not statistics.

Wednesday 31 August 2016

Towards heaven or hell?

Like many families we have our disagreements. These range across all manner of topics from the trivial, "what to watch tonight?", the mundane, "It's your turn to take out the garbage?", to the abstruse, "What is more important Art or Science?". Yet one of the topics that seems to spark the greatest passion relates to something that should be decided by just examining facts. It is the simple question "Is the world getting better"? Are we heading towards "heaven on earth" or "hell in a hand-basket"?

Dismissing for the moment the specifics, I find it fascinating that our small family group with, let's face it, similar backgrounds and attitudes to most things, can disagree so passionately on this question. Worse still this disagreement continues despite multiple attempts, yes heated attempts, to reconcile our opposing views. The observation that people of similar backgrounds can have viewpoints so opposing despite awareness of the same "facts" is a topic worthy of further exploration but I shall leave it for another day.

For the moment let's take a look at the question "Is our civilization heading towards the light or to darkness?"

Leaden Echo

There are many reasons to believe we are going to hell in a hand-basket.

Ever-present danger
Every day our news media focuses in on a human tragedy of some type or another, be it a terrorist attack, a natural disaster or disease that has cut short the lives of our brethren. Daily we are confronted with threats of war, or disease or climate catastrophe. We are constantly reminded that we live on a finite planet with scarcity of food, natural resources, and increasing pollution. Our airwaves emphasize our vulnerability, an omnipresent danger, and the potential for disaster.

As individuals we face the risk of  misadventure, physical violence, onset of disease, or financial stress to our selves or our loved ones.

As a community we are vulnerable to accidents and incidents, climatic events floods, drought or earthquakes, terrorism, outbreaks of disease, social upheaval, political instability and even war.

On a global we have the catastrophic climate change, nuclear conflagration or global pandemics.

So it is not surprising that we would feel our world is an unstable platform with a 'monster' around every corner.

The world is in a sorry state
If one takes a helicopter view of the world today we can only conclude that it is in a sorry state.

With some 7 billion souls to support our finite planet is straining under the load. The industries required to support this population are exhausting our natural resources and polluting our air land and sea. Our insatiable appetite for energy is generating greenhouse gases at a rate that is altering the climate.

Poverty and population pressures have fed into cultural conflicts creating widespread social unrest in the developing world. In the Middle East these have broken into multiple wars. These conflicts in turn have created vast numbers of refugees escaping violence and seeking better lives in the more prosperous regions of the world.  The sea of displaced are striving to re-locate into the wealthy developed world by fair means or foul.

Global terror networks seem to have infiltrated Europe and are bringing instability to a continent that had been at peace for half a century. China is playing games in the South China sea, Putin pushing boundaries around Russia at the very time the US has withdrawn from active leadership of the free world.

Nuclear weapons are spreading into less 'trustworthy' nations. Korea a failed state is already threatening its neighbours and developing delivery systems to threaten more distant foes. Iran never misses an opportunity to threaten Israel and it too is likely to have nuclear weapons in but a decade. So the potential for nuclear conflagration is increasing.

At the same time the arms industry is manufacturing weapons that give ever increasing destructive power to small groups or individuals. Who knows when a terrorist group or suicidal individual will obtain one of these to wreak havoc on a civilians. In recent Islamic terror attacks we have already seen the horrific impact of individuals and small groups hell bent on murder. Imagine if such attacks were executed with weapons of mass destruction.

By any objective assessment the world is in a sorry state. It seems the "towards hell" group should be easy winners.

The Golden Echo

Yet there is a compelling rejoinder. While the world may well be in a sorry state today, it was worse yesterday and the trend indicates it will be better tomorrow.

There are many facts supporting this thesis, but I will cover just a few.

In 2000 the UN established 8 Millennium Development Goals ; -

  • Eradicate Extreme poverty and Hunger
  • Achieve Universal Primary Education
  • Promote gender equality and empower women
  • Reduce Child Mortality
  • Improve Maternal Health Combat  HIV/Aids, Malaria and other Diseases
  • Ensure Environmental sustainability
  • Global Partnership and development.
The results as at 2015 are encouraging. Here are some of the highlights, you can check the rest here

From 1990 to 2015; -

  • More than 1 billion people have been lifted out of extreme poverty since 1990. 
  • The proportion of undernourished people in the developing regions has fallen by almost half since 1990 
  • Between 1990 and 2015, 2.6 billion people gained access to improved drinking water sources. 
  • Between 2000 and 2014, more than 320 million people living in slums gained access to improved water sources, improved sanitation facilities, or durable or less crowded housing, thereby exceeding the MDG target. 
  • More than 880 million people are estimated to be living in slums today, compared to 792 million in 2000 and 689 million in 1990
  • Among youth aged 15 to 24, the literacy rate has improved globally from 83 per cent to 91 per cent between 1990 and 2015, and the gap between women and men has narrowed.
  • Enrolment in primary education in developing regions reached 91 per cent in 2015, up from 83 per cent in 2000.
Gender Equality
  • The developing countries as a whole have achieved the target to eliminate gender disparity in primary, secondary and tertiary education. 
  • Women make up 41 per cent of paid workers outside of agriculture, an increase from 35 per cent in 1990 
  • The average proportion of women in parliament has nearly doubled over the past 20 years. 
Child Mortality
  • Between 1990 and 2015, the global under-five mortality rate has declined by more than half, dropping from 90 to 43 deaths per 1000 live births. 
  • Between 1990 and 2015, the number of deaths in children under five worldwide declined from 12.7 million in 1990 to almost 6 million in 2015. 
  • While Sub-Saharan Africa has the world’s highest child mortality rate, the absolute decline in child mortality has been the largest over the past two decades. 
Maternal Health

  • Since 1990, the maternal mortality ratio has been cut nearly in half, and most of the reduction occurred since 2000. 
  • More than 71 per cent of births were assisted by skilled health personnel globally in 2014, an increase from 59 per cent in 1990.
Combating HIV/Malaria and other diseases

  • New HIV infections fell by approximately 40 per cent between 2000 and 2013.
  • By June 2014, 13.6 million people living with HIV were receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART) globally, an increase from 800,000 in 2003.
  • Between 2000 and 2015, the substantial expansion of malaria interventions led to a 58 per cent decline in malaria mortality rates globally.
  • Since 2000, over 6.2 million deaths from malaria were averted, primarily in children under five years of age in Sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Tuberculosis prevention, diagnosis and treatment interventions have saved some 37 million lives between 2000 and 2013.
Environmental Sustainability
  • An increase in afforestation, a slight decrease in deforestation and the natural expansion of forests have reduced the net loss of forest from an average of 8.3 million hectares annually in the 1990s to an average of 5.2 million hectares annually between 2000 and 2010.
  • Ozone-depleting substances have been virtually eliminated, and the ozone layer is expected to recover by the middle of this century.
  • The world has met the target of halving the proportion of people without access to improved sources of water, five years ahead of schedule.
Global partnerships

  • In 2013, the debt burden of developing countries was 3.1 per cent, a major improvement over the 2000 figure of 12.0 per cent.
  • From 2007 to 2014, on average, generic medicines were available in 58 per cent of public health facilities in low-income and lower-middle-income countries.
  • 79 per cent of imports from developing countries enter developed countries duty-free.

But wait there is more...

The UN MDG demonstrate the world moving to address the targets set in 2000. While most targets areas require more attention, there has been very real progress.

We can also gain a glimpse of the state ofthe world and its direction from another informative site  Our World in Data.

This site is well worth a close look. It presents data across a range of factors including Population, Health, Energy, dissected by country and over time.

Here are some graphs showing how the world has changed (and is projected to change) over time for for Poverty, Human development Index, Democracy, Fertility, Life Expectancy, and Population.

Fig 1 Poverty is decreasing 

Fig 2 Human Development Index is increasing

Fig 3 The world is becoming more democratic.

Fig 4 Fertility rates are decreasing

Fig 5 Life Expectancy is increasing

Fig 6 World population is projected to peak

Of all the factors that one can use to gauge progress, Life Expectancy and Population are arguably the most important. Each of these measures is an amalgam of multiple factors. For example Life Expectancy is dependent on the availability and access to good quality food and healthcare. It indirectly 'measures' virtually all of the other factors that contribute to a successful society. its political systems, the wealth of its citizens, availability and access to food, shelter, healthcare, l as the efficiency of distribution of goods and services. Life expectancy can only increase if all of the factors contribute in a positive way hence it is ideal for measuring social health and over time progress. Life Expectancy for the world and each country in the world has shown pronounced growth over the last century. The world is getting better.

Similarly for World Population. Life expectancy in a world with uncontrolled population growth would be short lived. Life expectancy may increase for a while but then hit the wall. So it is essential for continued world progress that the world population stops growing. Figure 6 shows that despite increasing life expectancy fertility rates are dropping at a sufficient rate to ensure the population will peak somewhere between 10-13B around 2050 and then fall. This will ensure that the quality of life achieved for the wealthy nations today can be spread throughout the world in the next 100 years.

A better world beckons

The evidence paints a picture of the world in transition, a transition for the better. Yes, I have cherry-picked, omitting some issues of serious concern. Areas where the change over the past 25 years has seen deterioration. For example terrorism, and nuclear proliferation. Taken in isolation they are of concern and could lead to catastrophe. Historically, the world has faced many such potentially disastrous challenges. The little ice age, would have been seen as heralding global catastrophe in the 16-17th centuries Similarly during our world wars who could have argued that the world was improving? Yet just a few decades thereafter the world had recovered and to living standards better than beforehand. If you look at the graphs above you can see a steady improvement despite all the short term catastrophes. 

I picture our world history as a flowing river whose currents transport us towards that distant "better". Occasional shoals create turbulence and eddies that temporarily reverse our direction, but over time, inexorably, the great current of human development wins out and re-directs our flow towards progress. 

So despite the very real eddies we have faced and continue to face today, human evolution is towards a world much better than today.

Optimists live in a better world

You can guess which side of the argument I was on. But, of course, I have not convinced my family and don't expect to.

We live in our own worlds believing what we wish. My world is a happier place looking forward to better times for everyone.

Monday 15 August 2016

The Great debate

The great debate

Without doubt one of the most significant challenges for humanity is how it faces the limitations of a finite planet. Rising population is causing the rapid depletion of natural resources as well as the pollution of our land, sea and air, and forcing us, for the first time to face such limits. Climate Change, whether man-made or not, is perhaps the area of greatest controversy. This is not surprising given the prominence that it has gained in the allocation of financial resources across the globe. 

Arguments about Climate Change span the whole gamut from total denial to those who portend global catastrophe once the world passes an "imminent tipping point".  

It is a compelling debate with passions running high on both sides. I have ventured into this debate with a number of posts and collected them some time ago into a single web Page titled Climate Change. But of course I have only offered a small glimpse of the prevalent arguments. In order to provide broader coverage from now on the Climate Change page will also include external links to articles and videos that provide a wide range of views.

It is well worth a visit. My guess is it will challenge your own position, irrespective of where your views fall on the Climate change spectrum.

Saturday 6 August 2016

Another cartoonist attacked

At the very time I was putting finishing touches on my recent post (see Free Speech is not Free ) a blatant example of the type of frenzied mass attack" i referred to in that post was taking place. The victim is Bill Leak, cartoonist for the Australian who has had to endure a storm of personal invective for daring to suggest that bad parenting may have had something to do with high rate of indigenous- juvenile delinquency. The offense it seems is that the aboriginal parent is stereotyped as drunk and uncaring. Not mentioning, of course, that the policeman also indigenous, is demonstrating the opposite. Let's not let facts get in the way of some moral grand-standing.

Bill Leak's Controversial statement on indigenous parenting 

But I guess it highlights my point. There are too many commentators using personal attacks to shut down debate about genuine concerns in our society.

Leak has raised a serious issue and at least some in the media, The Australian and some Sky News commentators, are directing the discussion towards the very real causes of indigenous disadvantage; the breakdown of families that leads to the cycle of delinquency.

After the broadcast of the horrific images of the Don Dale detention center many are asking how has this come to pass, and why haven't we been able to redress this after so much has been invested over such a long period.

The attacks on Bill Leak demonstrate the failure by many to face some unsavory truths. The recognition that indigenous family life is in crisis, that and progress in redressing indigenous disadvantage will not be made without ensuring that indigenous families face the same consequences for neglect of children, domestic violence, alcoholism, and truancy that are the norm for the rest of society.

Of course a cartoonist does not need to take this lying down. And Bill Leak retorted in style with this one ; -

Leak being attacked by the media & social media lynch mob

Well done Bill!

Friday 5 August 2016

Free speech is not free

"Free" speech, one of the most esteemed of the ideals of western society is not free. Even in the very societies that espouse it most vehemently, it always comes at a cost.

Any view contrary to the "accepted norm" is attacked and the proponent personally vilified for transgressing the dictates of "social nicety". The arbiters of the rules are today the "Chatterati", that loosely aligned troop of media and academic commentators who patrol the airwaves with conspiratorial zeal. Like sharks at the smell of blood they are ready to mount a frenzied attack on the "mis-informed', "illiterate", "stupid", or "insane".

I don't have to go far for examples. They nominate themselves.

Think Pauline Hanson, Andrew Bolt, Cory Bernardi. A mere mention of their names brings to mind multiple character assassinations. They are however experienced and know the drill having come to terms with the not insignificant costs of their free speech from death threats, mob rule and, arguably, even a jail term.

Not so Sonia Kruger. She wandered apparently innocently outside the accepted boundaries. She may well have been surprised at the extent and scope of the reaction.  By raising the question of "Muslim Immigration" she unleashed a barrage of invective addressed at her personally rather than the argument she posed.

Attack the messenger

This is a common pattern. Rather than responding to arguments on their merits with counter arguments and counter facts, the attack is usually personal. Seemingly in fear that an unorthodox view may win over the masses, the self-elected thought-police use personal attacks to shout down and shut down debate.

Kruger's "cost" for her 'free speech' has so far amounted to multiple personal attacks by the Chatterati and social media. As a TV personality this will no doubt impact the way she is viewed and accepted by her colleagues and fans. However she may face even greater 'costs' following comments from some sponsors asking her to be removed from her role, as they do not want to be associated with someone with her views. This may turn out to be a high price indeed. Of course there has been support too, from loyal colleagues, from fellow outcasts like Bolt and Hanson, as well as from Free Speech advocates.

The Limits of Free speech

The Sonia Kruger events demonstrate that free speech is not free but has consequences. Is this reasonable?

In any civilized society hate speech, speech that incites violence against individuals or groups, is and must be punishable by law. However, expression of ideas that do not incite violence should be free of legal sanction. Contrary to 18C of our Racial Discrimination Act individuals should be allowed to express views that may offend others.

Of course that does not mean there won't be any consequences.  Expression of new, radical, contrary views will always elicit a response. A free society will not stifle such debates. On the contrary it will encourage them. For it is only by openly addressing each argument for or against a proposition that individuals come to accommodate what may seem to be opposing views. By seeing both sides of an argument we are more willing to compromise our own views.

Too often, however, those with main-stream views use their media power to shut down debate without proffering arguments but by attacking the messenger.

The repeated success of this approach has led to under-the-cover, half-hearted debates with many topics now closed to open discussion. Debates that we should be having like Kruger's Muslim Immigration, Same sex marriage, the recognition of aborigines in the constitution, to name just a few.

Repressing open discussion does not eliminate contrary views, it sends them underground and polarizes society. Paradoxically it leads to more extreme views rather than the opposite.

Yes there will always be and there should be consequences to expression of views. The consequences should however be counter argument rather than personal abuse.

Shame on You

To all those who attack the messenger "Shame on You". To sponsors who cave at the first sign of controversy "Shame on you". To those mainstream opinion-brokers who try to shut down debate by inciting protest against the person "Shame on You". By attacking the messenger you raise the cost of dissent and perpetuate conflict.

To Sonia Kruger and others brave enough to speak out against mainstream opinion, I thank you. I may not agree with your views but will fight for your right to express them.

Tuesday 26 July 2016

Super stuff-up!

If there was a single policy that contributed most to the loss of faith in Turnbull and Morrison in this election campaign it has been their ill conceived Superannuation policy. This policy alone turned many from loyal LNP supporters into at the very least skeptics but some into outright enemies.

Given the many and oft repeated claims by a broad spectrum of LNP ministers, including, most pointedly, our current treasurer that "we won't touch super", " the government is not after your money", it is no wonder that many have turned their backs on the party. It has left a deep scar that will heal but not for a while.

Change or stay the course?

Before the election Turnbull and Morrison could have retreated from some of the most controversial parts of the policy, those relating to the lifetime after tax contribution cap of $550,000 and the blatantly retrospective commencement "from 2007". Yes, this would have been a loss of face and it would have lost some credibility, but by any measure sticking to the controversial policy they have lost much more.

After the election however that option is not so easy.

They are left with only unsavory alternatives.

If the Super policy legislation is presented to the parliament in the form in which they were advocated at the election, it will remain as an ongoing scar against Turnbull and Morrison that will haunt them for whatever period they have in office.

If on the other hand they modify it, they will not only have angered their base for no reason, worse still they will repeat the policy flip-flops that contributed to the downfall of both Abbott and Gillard governments. You cannot change the policy you have taken to an election without serious adverse consequences.

Reluctantly I have to accept they have no choice but to present the legislation as proposed at the election, and hope the Senate saves them.

The Senate may well save them

Although this is by no means likely, it is possible that the Senate will reject or insist on modifications to the policy that was taken to the election.

Many in the crossbench owe at least part of their support to their stated position against the government's Super and so will naturally reject the most controversial propositions. So in this case at least Turnbull will get help from the cross bench.

It then really depends on the ALP.  

The ALP was very vocal about the 'Retrospectivity" in the proposed rules but then 'banked' all the savings. This inconsistent approach may have been expedient during an election campaign but now needs to be reconciled. If they dig their heels in and insist on modifications, it will give Turnbull an out. He will be able to modify the policies to smooth over the most controversial parts relating to the lifetime limit on after-tax contributions. It would be hard for the ALP to argue against the removal of the retrospectivity thorn from the policy when they had argued against in during the campaign, but of course this is the ALP and they have done similar policy flip flops in the past.

However the very fact that it gives Turnbull an out may sway the ALP to simply support the legislation as proposed to entrench the resentment by the LNP supporters against Turnbull and Morrison. 

My guess is the ALP won't do this. They won't be able to resist grandstanding and will choose to reject the legislation. I guess we'll see.

In any case if the legislation is rejected, it will give Turnbull the justification to make necessary changes to remove the controversial aspects of the policy and find a middle road to calm LNP supporters. Let's hope he takes that road. He seems doggedly deaf to advice and I fear he may not.

Thursday 14 July 2016

May outshines Turnbull

May claims the centre..

Theresa May has taken the reins of the UK with a quiet confidence reminiscent of her very successful only female predecessor. By vowing to fight the "the burning injustice" of the disadvantaged she claims the centre path and vows to rule for all the people. Glib as these sentiments may be, they show an astute politician setting an agenda for the country and her party.

In the same vein she has appointed Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary, a surprise appointment but most appropriate given Boris' role in the Brexit decision. He will have the task of facing the very people who may be hostile to the move. More importantly given the divisions within the conservative party caused by the Brexit decision she is showing she wants a united party and will include all who are capable in the ministry.

Contrast with Turnbull

Contrast this to our own PM. After deposing Abbott, without a second thought for inclusivity or healing the natural divisions that such a coup would cause,Turnbull surrounded himself with his 'yes' men. The very people who had helped orchestrate his ascendance became the primary beneficiaries. Many ardent Abbott supporters were jettisoned.

Over the past 8 months he has had a free rein to win the hearts and minds of both the electorate and his colleagues. Alas the election results demonstrate that he has been unsuccessful. By almost losing the un-loseable election he has opened up a rift with the right wing of his party and yet seems doggedly unwilling to redress this problem. Where May accepted the need to ensure all extremes of her party are represented in her cabinet, Turnbull seems blind to the division he has caused and reluctant to address it.

It can be achieved in a number of ways,  either by opening up more cabinet positions for its members or by being more willing to fight for their causes.  Yet there is no sign that Turnbull is taking any action. One is reminded of the Abbott 'tin ear'.

While it is true that today these problems are but 'rumbles', a Cory Bernardi announcement of a new right wing movement, or individual MPs complaining about the Super policy. The rift goes deeper than that. Once parliament is back in action it will be exploited by political shenanigans by any of the opposition parties and the media, and has the potential to fester and grow. With the government's future hanging on just two disaffected right wing MPs this is potentially terminal.

Turnbull neglects this at his peril.