13 November 2006

On display

I'm tired of silly articles like this that regard testosterone as a toxin.

You may have seen small children go into shops and grab things that appeal to them. Sometimes they do this in private homes. The lesson that responsible adults should be trying to teach them is: just because something is on display doesn't mean it's on offer.

We live in a society drenched with consumerism and sex. We are constantly told: if you want something, you can go out and get it. Sex can be a commodity in our society to some extent, but that doesn't mean it has to be - and religious organisations should be more helpful in helping people get over this than they have been.

None of the prophets of the great religions just shrug whenever a man caves to his desires, sexual or otherwise. After Hilaly's comments there were a lot of women being offended at being compared to meat, but what about men being compared to animals? The whole idea of religion, any religion, is to help you rise above your basic desires. Whether people lust after cleavage and long legs, cars or bling or drugs or whatever, the lesson should be the same: just because you can see it, and it's enticing, doesn't mean that you can just go and have it. Being a slave to your desires is a poor life, and in realising this, the laws of Australia should be the least of your worries.

So it is with "provocative dressing". It's one thing to see a woman walking down the street and to be titillated. It's another to think: even though she shows no interest in me, she really does want me to go after her, and that you can have a woman in the same way you can steal property. The man who gives into his desires in this way has failed as a man.

The religious leaders who failed to address this have failed their people. Part of the problem with a commitment to medievalism among the major religions - where nobody has any knowledge not sanctioned by clerical authorities, and where consumerism, sex and other temptations are simply wished away by ritual imprecations - is that they can't help reinforce the strength of character needed to resist the very real temptations we face in various ways. They can't reinforce that strength because that same strength might be used by followers to identify and stand against any clerical measures that go against their faith. They'd rather abandon a few desire-plagued sinners than inspire a bit of self-discipline: the best kind, it beats any other discipline imposed from without.

Nobody dressed "provocatively" in the Middle Ages, so railing against this is part of the retreat of religious leaders from helping people where they're at. It also shows what happens when you exclude women from developing clerical thought, but that's another matter.

12 November 2006

A preference for bloody-mindedness

There are many parties in the Australian political system. There are only two parties of government - the ALP and the Liberal-Nationals coalition - hereafter referred to as POGs.

A POG loses office when it loses sufficient seats to the other POG. The losing POG tries all sorts of tactics to win voters back, but occasionally they only succeed in winning one or two seats here or there while remaining in opposition.

The old saying goes that oppositions don't win elections, governments lose them - but when an opposition loses the government can't claim all the credit. Not only is the loser POG abandoned by the middle ground, they are undercut by their own people. A winning POG has to appeal to the centre without losing the fringe, and this is the stuff of the best political leadership. Not every party has it, and those that do don't have it all the time.

In 1988, Nick Greiner led the Coalition to power. Labor not only lost the marginals to the Coalition - and even relatively safe seats like Cessnock - they lost heartland seats like Balmain, Newcastle, Wollongong and Swansea to independents. In private, Liberal wide-boys would claim credit for preference deals that added that extra bit of spice to the 1988 victory - the same victory they frittered away over two elections - but in truth these were symptoms of ALP failure. If ever there was an example where an opposition that won the election, Greiner is it.

Today the tables have turned. Dubbo, Port Macquarie, all those independent seats in State Parliament are seats that would normally be held by the Coalition. Safe seats that aren't demoralise oppositions and take their focus away from the government. The NSW Coalition missed the Orkopoulos scandal, and the latest Tripodi outrage, because they were busy playing silly-buggers with independents and Christian fundamentalists.

In South Australia a similar phenomenon is in place - Mike Rann is duchessing disaffected Liberals in seats he can't win to keep the opposition pinned to the floor, a more effective strategy than massaging hard-to-please voters in the marginals. Federally, the three independent MPs all hold conservative regional seats one would expect the Coalition to hold; they are polyps in the Coalition's body-politic whose growth is another sign of Nationals impotence.

In Victoria, there will eventually be a Liberal government. Not only will Labor lose the marginals out around Narre Warren or Glen Waverley, but they'll lose those inner-Melbourne seats where the fractious left take their politics seriously. Kirner shored up those seats as her popularity decreased to ensure they didn't go independent. The loss of Bob Hawke's federal seat in that area in 1992 was one of the few wake-up calls they actually heeded, and accounts for Labor's resilience after they were belted by Kennett later that year. Kennett ignored those Labor heartland seats - it was a mistake, he had ample opportunity for mischief, but they stayed united and eventually pushed back.

The Victorian Liberals should preference the Greens in inner-city seats they can't win. Labor can afford to lose a few marginals, but it fears the loss of inner-city seats and the Liberals were wrong to indulge their opponents. Labor would struggle to define itself and would lose the composure that makes it so reassuringly dull, which would have Federal implications in Labor's best state.

The Liberals would have some explaining to do to their donors in preferencing Greens over Labor. The explanation is this: bloody-mindedness. The property industry provides numerous examples where companies stop rival developments by funding a fake environmentalist front: the principle of Liberals working to secure the election of a Green is no different. For Greens, this raises the question of Faustian bargains, but that's their problem. The POG least able to escape a pincer movement isn't nimble enough for government anyway.

Another problem is that a badly-managed pincer strategy makes a POG look like it doesn't know what it's about. Labor funds going toward an arch-conservative, Liberals funding the Greens, this is intellectually incoherent and double-dealing. Yeah? So? Been in politics long, have ya?

Preference deals like this, some say, might give leg-ups to minor parties whose obscurity is well deserved. This would be fine if current arrangements worked better than they do in freezing out fringe players like the Greens and Fielding First. When it comes to preference deals, minor parties and independents are so many stick sthat one POG uses to beat the other.

Such deals are arranged by the sort of person who is utterly repellent to voters, but who can make it to positions of power within POGs. These people occupy the upper houses of our parliaments, and are prone to chummy deals with their fellow professionals that can work against the interests of the parties which gave them their position: all care, no responsibility.

With you consider the piss-poor governments in this country, it simply is not fair to give them the credit due to political genius. The credit belongs to Oppositions with a knack for failing to win the marginals while also disaffecting the heartland. Oppositions in this country have worked hard to cop it from all sides, and they deserve more credit for that than they've received.

08 November 2006

Vice President Lieberman?

It's early days, just after the US elections, but this could work. I wasn't trolling, honest!

Sweeping proposals to restructure government

Inspired by this, the following will illustrate the sheer folly of me going anywhere near the levers of government at any level. I would:

  • Raise the taxfree threshhold for income tax to average weekly earnings for women and use that as a basis for sweeping reassessments of work and welfare. Include imputed income like fare discounts into low-income earners' wages and factor this in to welfare decisions, to remove disincentives to work.

  • Remove all Jeanette Howard subsidies rorts - middle-class women capable of working should wear the financial penalty of not doing so. In fact, remove Jeanette Howard from the public purse - unlike every other Prime Minister's wife back to those two nervy little mice who were married to Curtin and Chifley, this woman doesn't earn her keep with Good Causes and should pay her way when she makes herself available for the Lurk Of The Week. There'd be 30 or 40 abused kids, or countless literacy programs in the pillbox-hat budget of that useless appendage. You just know that in ten years some palace/Yarralumla hack will leak that nobody at the head-of-government level could stand her.

  • Increase but cap the Defence budget - currently Defence has no disincentive to tackle the featherbedding that protracted all-out war works out of Defence, so a cap will turn the minds of leadership to this end. All those uniformed timeserver nuf-nufs who are protected from the consequences of selling weapons to bikie gangs/sexual harrassment/acquisition rorts should be punted straight onto welfare rolls. There should be a closer interface between defence and police in recognition of the fact that the nature of threats facing the country has changed. Private airports should be responsible for security, with any breaches actionable against the airport owner.

  • Tax breaks for research & investment and IP protection, as well as infrastructure (including telco). Health and education go to the states, but not to the point where they have no incentive to work on interoperability. Give the CSIRO a role in facilitating information exchange among universities.

  • All tax breaks to farmers not open to other small businesses to end immediately. All those alpaca/guava/olive oil/[insert this year's rorts here] farms in the NSW Southern Highlands and Daylesford areas become available to actual farmers who can give up their hardscrabble properties to the desert, and/or the descendents of the Aborigines who grand-granddaddy first forced off the selection. Charge water at the rate of return for inputs and watch the cotton and rice farmers give it up. Stop all subsidies to low-margin exports.

  • Any airline regulation that can be found to advantage Qantas over its competitors should be axed immediately.

  • Any tax whose collection is outweighed by the costs of its collection should be scrapped. I'm with the libertarians on this one, just go without.

  • If a public-service process can be automated it should be. It's the best hope Australia has at becoming an IT power - not radical innovation but using existing systems well, without putting people into draining, pointless jobs.

  • End all government schemes telling Aborigines how to live their lives, e.g. the geniuses who go out to red clay soil and try to train local people in turning it into cattle country. We've done that shit for a hundred years, quit while you're behind I say. In the same vein, all schemes involving sports stars lecturing school kids about obesity should end immediately.

  • Abolish all metropolitan local government, with one LGA per city and all regional areas centred on a major centre. Devolve all planning and public transport to these organisations - but not schools or hospitals as the ACT shows regional governments are too small to be cost-effective. The ACT should cede its big-ticket items to NSW and take to its true role as Canberra-Queanbeyan City Council. Do whatever has to be done to enable South Australia, WA & NT to merge, and Tasmania to merge with Victoria.

  • Common currency, commercial and financial regulation, job market, defence/policing arrangements and airline regulation across Australia, New Zealand, East Timor and other South Pacific Forum member-countries. Sink illegal fishing and whaling vessels.

  • Restructure ASIC so that it can get success fees out of companies that try to box clever with Trade Practices law. Any smart, hardworking lawyer/accountant who goes to work there should have the chance to be as rich as Graeme Samuel.

  • All smokers to indemnify Medicare against smoking-related illness.

  • Prison terms for any public servant, including legislators, who give public money to religious organisations. They've got plenty of dough and they only use it to play legalistic silly-buggers with various victims of institutionalisation.

  • I have no opinions on flat taxes, school vouchers or public housing. Yet.

01 November 2006

Comforting the fearful

This anonymous post hit my inbox. I delete anonymous posts as a matter of course but I think I may have some fun with this one. It referred to my earlier posts about NSW State politics:

Typical Leftie crap. John Watkins only skill in politics is to cuddle people in a portfolio after an activist reformer with a pulse beat (Costa, Scully) has departed.

What major transport initiaves has John Watkins managed? What new projects has he championed to ease congestion. When ever has he been prepared to take on the militant left public transport unions whose indstrial rorts and old world intransigence should be a complete embarrassment to those of us who defend the legitimate union movement?

I struggle to defend many members of the NSW Govt as they have decided as a job-lot that preservation is more important than reform or progress. One obvious standout is Frank Sartor in Planning who actually believes the Premier's slogan of "Open for Business" and other minor contributors include Cherie Burton in Housing (a public housing kid who rose through the ranks to be the best local MP in Australia taking Kogarah from 0.9% margin to 18% in two elections) and Eric Roozendaal who has turned around the anger on Cross City Tunnel with a commercial approach. None of these have ever been to a Steering Committee meeting.

As to the 'lack of ideology' complaint, this is State Politics, it's not the UN. Balance the books, grow the State economy, deliver jobs, get people to work on tme, keep them safe and gaurantee a decent education and the job is 90% done. Then we can move on social policy reform.

On the great lefties, what has "B'debus" done about promotion of national parks, what has Tebbutt done (a good performer mostly) to take on the Communist Teachers Collective about performance stats for parents, how has Sandra Nori helped NSW women, what has the magnificent Kerry Hickey done to reform local govt, what has Meredith Burgman done to destroy the Leg Council??

Let's get serious about the whole place and tune Mark Arbib into a more productive use of his time. Get all of the talent that NSW has to offer, which is currently inhabitting the ranks of company public affairs divisions, lobby groups and consulting firms and find them a seat. Throw out the bench warmers from both factions and renew the team that seeks to represent Labor. What we need is more people who understand communities, understand the value of a dollar, know how business works and have some experience outside the union office, the ministerial office and the party office.

cheers (anonomys for fear of retribution from all factions)

Our anonymous friend suffers from three major delusions:

1. Anyone who comes into government swinging the axe, ejaculating press releases and jabbering madly is a great activist reformer. The minister who manages a difficult portfolio is somehow less worthy than the thrower of bombs (and tantrums) has been carried out on a stretcher. This is a standard mental flaw among the NSW Labor Right, once you understand this you can understand why the same political machine produced Mark Latham, Paul Keating and H V Evatt. You could splice that bit about "this is State Politics, it's not the UN" to defeat his own first two paragraphs.

2. Not only does he assume that Mark Arbib is capable of being useful, he assumes that "people who understand communities, understand the value of a dollar, know how business works and have some experience outside the union office, the ministerial office and the party office" are the same people who can currently be found in "the ranks of company public affairs divisions, lobby groups and consulting firms". He identifies three of his favourite ministers, none of whom fit this (hard to fit) bill.

3. I bet if you look at the choice of words in the italicised words above, and compared them to the mad rants you see on Labor blog sites like Landeryou, it would be possible to identify this bloke. Somewhere there's a union hack with nothing better to do than this very task. Report back with your findings please.

Labor left only become valuable members of society once they abandon their statist dreams. what has "B'debus" done about promotion of national parks? Um, I know there are National Parks, you know there are National Parks, isn't that enough? By ALP terms this man has more than earned a spot in Canberra. If there was a "lack of ideology complaint" I must have missed it, and am sure I didn't make it. See if you can find it, while I struggle to think who I'd put in the pantheon of Great Reforming Local Government Ministers.

When you're as flaky and self-contradictory as this poster, it saves me the trouble of pulling the wings off your delicate arguments.