Monday, April 25, 2011

ANZAC Day 2011

Today is ANZAC Day. ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corp. It is a day when we Australians, and New Zealanders, commemorate:
  • the ANZAC landing at Gallipoli Peninsula on 25-April-1915, and the heroic failure that ensued. ‘ANZAC’ initially meant a soldier who had landed & fought at Gallipoli.
  • the various meanings of war, sacrifice, mateship, larrikinism, loyalty, bravery
During and after WWII, it became a day to remember all Australians who fought & died in wars, peace-keeping and police actions: the Boer war, WWI, including WWII, the police action in Malaysia, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and from all the services.

It is a commemoration: a public display of individual, group and society’s remembrance and respect.
This year, a relative of mine who has marched in Sydney for years, will not march. He is not well enough. He will watch it, and look for his mates on, the ABC’s TV coverage. I rang him yesterday to wish him a good day.

Ode to the Fallen (‘the Ode’)

(from ‘For the Fallen, by Laurence Binyon)
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

Lest We Forget.


    Monday, April 18, 2011

    Divisive Abbott In Front

    This week, Tony Abbott was saying that the government should listen to the unions. The context is over the carbon tax and some unions have publicly expressed concerns about their fears. In particular, Paul Howes from the Australian Workers Union, which represents many workers in the manufacturing, steel, aluminium, glass, oil & gas, aviation, agriculture, construction, state public services, local government, health, plastics, hospitality, food, paper, resources, aquaculture, events and racing industries. Many of the industries above will be affected in some way by a carbon tax.

    Back to Tony Abbott.
    • As a Minister in the Howard government, Tony Abbott voted for, and defended, WorkChoices legislation. WorkChoices was designed to lower wages, and prevent unions from representing members in pay negotiations. That is, he wanted to stop unions speaking up for members. This week, he thinks they should, because it suits him politically.
    • On 9-December-2010, Tony Abbott gave an interview in which he said:
      • “The Labor Party is in government but the Greens are in power. “
      • “… we’ve had more WikiLeaks today which demonstrates that the unions are in charge … they’re effectively running the Government”. (most of us would think that, if the Greens were in power, they’d also be in charge. Not, apparently, Tony Abbott, who thought the unions ran the government, and therefore had power!)
        • Here, he clearly wanted Prime Minister Julia Gillard to NOT listen to union officials.
      • On 16-April-2011, Tony Abbott thought ( )
        • “I just think it’s very important that the Prime Minister should listen to the people who are at last expressing the concerns of Australians workers.”
      • Today’s position by Tony Abbott seems to be the exact opposite of what he wanted when in Government, and as Leader of the Opposition last December.

      2pp-2011For all of that, Tony Abbot’s short slogans, frequent media “doorstop” statements, and frequent visits to backdrop sites to which voters relate is effective. While it is driven by his need to be divisive – a tactic he believes will eventually make him PM -  By contrast, Julia Gillard and Labor seems to want to debate the issue, with no one, certainly not PM Julia Gillard, visiting workplaces with the same frequency as Tony Abbott. No wonder the latest polls show a drop in support for Labor, and for Julia Gillard as PM.
      The chart shows the figures from Newspoll.

      Back to Julia Gillard. If she wants to counter Tony Abbott’s popularity, she, and her ministers, need to adopt the same tactics as Abbott:
      • frequent “doorstop” interviews
      • these interviews need to have a backdrop/setting that voters will connect with.
      • there needs to be constant repetition of short slogans.  eg ‘carbon tax – for the environment’; ‘carbon tax – for our children’
      • she should not stop proper debates, but, since most voters are unthinking, and respond to the number of media appearances/mentions, Abbott’s techniques are effective. They're not good for public debate, but effective.


      Wednesday, April 13, 2011

      The Clubs Fight Back

      This week, the Hotel and Clubs industries fight back against the introduction of measures to limit poker machine use. The measures would have poker machine gamblers nominate an amount they are prepared to lose. There are few who benefit directly from the profits: pubs, clubs, the State Government. Individual Hotels, Clubs and their Industry Associations make political donations to the major parties.

      New NSW Liberal Premier Barry O’Farrell has come out in support of the Pubs and Clubs in their fight with the Federal (Labor) Government. It is appropriate to ask some questions:
      • How much did the pubs, clubs, their industry associations, and their lobbyists donate to the Liberal & National Parties in NSW before the election? (this will be available at a later date from the Electoral Commission, but it requires some work to determine lobbyists affiliations)
      • Mr O’Farrell seems to have issued a press release, but then has not been available for questioning. Why?
      • How much does the State Government stand to benefit over the next 4 years from poker machine taxes?
      • Does Mr O’Farrell believe all pubs and clubs conform to the Responsible Service of gambling?



      Monday, April 11, 2011

      What Price A Child's Life?

      There were two news stories about the murder of two children this week. Yet the results of investigations are very, very different.

      West Gate Bridge
      Source: National Archives of Australia
       On 29 January 2009, 4-year-old Darcey Freeman died after being dropped 58m from Melbourne's West Gate Bridge. A lengthy police investigation, prosecution preparation and trial led to the conviction of Arthur Phillip Freeman of murder. He had been involved in a custody battle with his former wife, and, shortly before Darcey was dropped from the bridge, he rang her and said "say goodbye to your children". Darcey's 6yo and 2yo brothers saw him drop Darcey from the top of the bridge. Despite being recovered by people below, Darcey later died. Arthur Phillip Freeman was sentenced to life in prison, with a 32 year non-parole period.

      In sentencing Freeman, Justice Paul Coghlan said  "Your crime is a most fundamental breach of trust and it is an attack on the institution of the family which is so dear to the community"

      Also last week, NT Coroner Greg Cavanagh criticised Northern Territory Police for their lack of investigation of the drowning of an 8yo aboriginal boy in 2009. The boy had been weighted down with rocks in his shorts, and drowned in a waterhole. The case has now been referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions after he found a crime had been committed. Police were criticised for: being too quick to dismiss the death as accidental; not protecting and keeping the rocks; not making measurements of, and photographing or keeping other physical evidence; a beer can was not tested for DNA for months after the discovery (the DNA reportedly belongs to a person on remand for child sex offences); the waterhole was not drained and searched; evidence (a pornographic magazine and a singlet) was dismissed as unimportant without being tested. The list goes on.

      Any unlawful death hurts society. The killing of a child is especially painful for family, and society. In the Melbourne, Victorian, case, police conducted an investigation which led to trial, and conviction. In the other, it is hard not to conclude that the death of an aboriginal child was deemed not worthy of rigorous investigation by the investigating police. Our society has been hurt twice by this case: once that a child has been killed; and again because the police we trust apparently did not do their job properly.


      Saturday, April 02, 2011

      Carbon Tax Debate Hijacked

      The debate about whether Australia should, or should not, have a carbon tax is being hijacked. Today in Sydney there were two rallies: one in favour of a carbon tax, and one opposed to any carbon price.

      The anti-tax rally, apparently organized by on Luke Jenkins, boasted the support of 22 organizations. All were pro-conservative media (The Australian, The Daily Telegraph); conservative-media journalists (Andrew Bolt - he of the current controversy concerning his comments about some aboriginal people); political organizations (Menzies House); Jo Nova (she has links to the Heartland Institute, which worked with tobacco giant Philip Morris to try to discredit second-hand smoke as a danger to health); One Nation; ... There website is: I don't doubt that there are extremists associated with, and driving, the organization. They play on one basic human trait: we don't like paying any tax.

      Rallies are organized, and the Liberal and National Party politicians invited. It is as if the no-tax power-brokers are waving the tails of the Coalition politicians! Some of them are willing subjects, for their own political purposes.

      The pro-tax, pro-climate change rally was organized by GetUp! - - an organization also known to contain some extremists, and willing to criticise all and sundry that don't meet their "social" wishes, including the Labor Party. Like the No carbon Tax group, they attempt to wag the tail of politicians and political parties.

      Both rallies are reported to have had about 4000 participants.

      So, should we have a carbon tax?? Yes ... and No.

      Here, let me say that I think that people are contributing to rising Carbon Dioxide levels; and that increasing Carbon Dioxide levels are a cause of increasing average temperatures of the earth, rising sea levels and (likely) increasing  frequency and severity of extreme weather events. Rational argument doesn't work with climate sceptics / Conservative politics, but:
      • NASA (Oct, 2010) has a report that concludes 
      "... industrial activity is responsible for the rapidly increasing levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. It is not surprising then that global warming can be linked directly to the observed increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide and to human industrial activity in general."
      • If it comes down to believing the myriad Conservative media & skeptics, or Dr Karl Kruszelniki, I'm mush more inclined to believe Dr Karl

      Yes - a carbon tax would work better in a closed economy. That is, one not exposed to, and part of, world-wide economic activity. Taxes, like interest rate movements from The Reserve Bank are designed to change people's behaviour. A carbon tax will help change people's behaviour in their use of carbon-based energy: mostly electricity and petrol. This is because society needs an impulse to change its behaviour, and if people want to not pay the tax, they will change their behaviour.

      No - because Australia is part of a 'global economy', and taxes work best in a closed economy, an Emissions Trading Scheme with a capped amount of carbon pollution, or even one that reduces the levels of carbon pollution, is a better option.

      A price on carbon is appropriate, the pollution has an economic cost that polluters have not had to pay, and economics says that they should.