Monthly Archives: July 2012

Sunset before Yea

Minus two near Heathcote (iPhone)

A field near Wagga (well, nearer Henty)

Rules for thee not me

The Liberals and their cheerleaders at The Australian are trying to beat up a smear on the Greens for – like both big parties when they get treasury costings of prospective policies – supporting Treasury not releasing those costings. (Note that neither The Australian nor the Liberals are actually advocating for the rules to be changed and their treasury costings to be released, so this is just a game of We Called You A Hypocrite First.)

If such costings could be obtained under FOI, Senator Milne said, it would mean parties would be unable to “get a reliable costing to make a decision”.

As in – we’re talking about costings of prospective policies. Is it a bad idea for parties to be able to submit policies for costing before they decide whether to adopt them or not, without fearing that they’ll get smeared by opponents for considering something that costings subsequently cause them to decide against?

In an honest media environment, of course, the fact that a party had considered something it subsequently decided against would be unremarkable, and it wouldn’t matter what the costings said because how do you smear a party for something being expensive if that’s why they decided against it? But in this media environment… I can see why parties knowing mere consideration of a policy is enough to get you damned for it might cause them to refuse to submit policies for costing by treasury, and instead rely on dodgy firms friendly to them (like the Liberals do).

I suspect this is another of those situations where the Greens are forced to act within the system they want to change. They want caps on political donations, but will accept large ones (from people who are supportive of their existing policy positions) in the interim, because if they didn’t they’d have no chance of competing with those that do. They want transparency in treasury costings – but for all parties, not them alone.

It would be hypocrisy if they wanted the system to apply to everyone but them. It would be a betrayal of principle if, once they got inside the tent, they stopped advocating for those reforms, or actually voted against them. And that would be the point at which I stopped supporting them.

But this beat-up by people who believe 1.5 million Greens voters should be excluded from having a single representative in the House of Representatives is clearly not that point.

Delivering everything for everyone without compromise

Victorian ALP leader Daniel Andrews, quoted by a hack at News, delivers a weirdly ironic sledge at the Greens:

While some in the ALP have taken a different path, my style was not to hurl abuse at the Greens. Instead, we calmly challenged the Greens’ central premise that they can deliver everything for everyone without compromise.

The Greens don’t pretend they can represent left-wing voters and right-wing voters simultaneously: they proudly stand for public services funded by adequate taxation. They do compromise, but not to the extent of betraying what they promised voters before an election.

Those two problems are precisely what’s wrong with both “big church” parties, unavoidably, entirely by design. Even with an electoral system designed to produce majorities when there is no party that has majority support from the population, in order to get that precious majority with which they don’t have to negotiate with anyone in parliament they still need to trick people on opposite sides into voting for them. They tell everyone they can represent them. We’ll do just what you want, and you, and you, and you! Just vote for us!

“Everything for everyone”, indeed. Must be that weird thing where you deflect from your own flaws by accusing someone else of them first.

Festival of Gerard’s Ideas

Cranky old typist Gerard Henderson – oh, sorry, “his dog” – lists some notions he’d like to see discussed at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas. The problem is, what discussion could suggestions so asinine really prompt?

Here’s Nancy’s suggestions for some really dangerous ideas which would challenge leftist sensibilities. Namely: (i) “Abortion Is Murder”, (ii) “If We All Become Gay, Western Civilisation Will End”, (iii) “George W. Bush is America’s Greatest President and Tony Blair is Britain’s Greatest Prime Minister”, (iv) “If The Arab States Were As Good as Israel, The Middle East Would Be A Better Place”, (v) “Julian Assange Should Stand Trial For Treason In the United States”, (vi) “Germaine Greer Has Become A Dreadfully Boring Media Tart”, (vii) “Only Re-Colonisation Can Solve Africa’s Problems”, (viii) “Private Schools Are Best”, (ix) Human Induced Climate Change Is A Load Of Crap”, (x) “Greed Is Good and (xi) “Vietnam Was a Just War”.

i) Can Gerard – sorry, “Nancy” – genuinely not see a distinction between abortion and murder? He thinks someone who shoots a person in cold blood is no worse than a woman who takes a pill that separates a collection of cells post-conception from her own womb? Maybe Gerard would like a discussion on the subject “A Pregnant Woman Is A Walking Incubator Owned By The State Without Rights To Her Own Body”.

ii) Who’s suggesting we “all” become gay? When we finally legislate marriage equality, does Gerard envisage divorcing Anne and shacking up with a bloke? Is Gerard’s opposition to marriage equality because he thinks gay marriage will become compulsory? Wow, that’s a misconception that should be easy to clear up. And with his apparently main concern resolved, well… Welcome aboard, Gerard!

iii) Who’s going to argue the pro- side for this ridiculous proposition? Do even conservatives believe either of those claims? Does Gerard? I’d have thought he’d prefer Reagan and Thatcher to Bush and Blair. AND LET’S NOT MENTION THE GFC.

iv) Well, yes, a region of semi-democracies with some approximation of the rule of law would be better than a region of brutal, unstable dictatorships ruling over impoverished citizens – but it would still be a terrible place. It’d still be a collection of militarist countries founded on religious bigotry in which human rights are regularly abused. It’s pretty pathetic that the defenders of Israel make excuses for its atrocities by looking over the fence and whinging, as a petulant child, “but those guys are worse!” Of course they are, but that’s no excuse for your behaviour. And unlike the disenfranchised masses in those countries, most of your citizens are in a position to demand much better. In the same way, Gerard, you and Tony criticise the Australian government and would be unimpressed by its defenders responding with “hey, if the US/UK governments were as good at managing economies as Australia’s, the world would be a better place”.

v) Julian Assange stand trial for “treason” in the US? Why? Julian’s not a citizen of the US. How can you be a “traitor” to a country that isn’t even your own? Also – would you rather the US military got to blow up journalists and cover it up? (It’s okay, you don’t need to answer that.)

vi) True. Who’s going to defend Germaine’s recent celebrity appearances?

vii) Hey, Forget The Last Two Hundred Years, We’re Better At It Now! Trust Us! Has Gerard ever actually met anyone from Africa?

viii) Perhaps at the moment “Private schools are best” – but that’s the problem. Better than what precisely – public schools? So what happens to those kids? The question is why should any child be denied that quality of education? Because that’s precisely what the charging of fees for schooling does. It excludes children on the basis of their parents’ ability or willingness to pay. Gerard wants fortunate kids to have a “better” education than other kids. He might be perfectly happy to ignore the consequences for those kids, that disadvantage at the elementary level of their basic education – but he can’t then pretend that we live in a meritocracy.

ix) …Because The Atmosphere Magically Can Take Without Consequence Absolutely Anything We Throw At It.

x) Somebody take Gerard’s stuff and see how much he likes other people’s greed.

xi) Vietnam a “just war”? In what way?

Amusingly, Gerard’s understanding of debate is that the “pro” question be framed in a way with which he agrees – his “abortion is murder” suggestion is pretty much exactly the same topic as the “a foetus is not a person” discussion the Festival is actually going to have and that he complains about.

If Gerard’s planning on having a forum at his “Sydney Institute” where people are actually given the opportunity to argue with him on these or any of the above topics, he should let us know.

PS “Can you bear it?” at the end of each section? Well – can you?

What, it’s going to become a photoblog or something?

Oh yes, AnonymousLefty! What to do with this? I’m sure you’ve been listening to the highly-rated Something Wonky podcast – but you might be wondering what’s going to happen with this blog.

Don’t know yet.

Will let you know when I do.

In the meantime, we’re busy packing for our move to Wagga.

You know when you’re sad at what you’re leaving behind but also incredibly excited and impatient about the great opportunity that’s starting next? That’s the one.

Another foolish state Attorney-General making matters worse

If anyone’s thinking that electing the Liberals in Canberra would be a harmless way to tell Julia you don’t like her, but that it’s not like they’d go mad and do a whole host of incredibly destructive things – have you been watching what’s happening in Queensland?

Here’s their latest effort:

Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie wants all juvenile offenders to be publicly named when they attend court, unless a judge orders otherwise.

Currently children can only be identified when a judge deems the case warrants naming.

Wait, what? Does Bleijie not understand that the reason for emphasising rehabilitation over deterrence with young people is that their brains aren’t fully formed and the clear evidence is that deterrence is far less effective than programs to redirect their lives? That giving them a criminal history early on simply prevents them from ever having a hope of doing something else with their lives?

Mr Bleijie says most children who appear in court are repeat offenders and naming them could force them to take responsibility for their actions.

“A lot of young repeat offenders who know that the reporters and journalists can’t report names, come out of court smiling and living among their communities and the communities ought to have a right to know,” he said.

“And also if there’s a little bit of community pressure put on these young people, perhaps it will actually deter these young people from committing these crimes in the future.”

Actually, you blithering idiot, that’s exactly the way to turn young, impressionable people into lifelong criminals. Young people committing crimes are more likely to respond to severe censure by defiantly identifying with criminal peers. It takes maturity to learn to evaluate risk properly and it takes maturity to persevere through difficult circumstances.

Completely destroying a kid’s life if they don’t make decisions like a rational adult is incredibly counterproductive.

First Robert Clark in Victoria, now Bleijie in Queensland. What is it with right-wing Attorneys-General and a pigheaded bloody-minded determination to stomp about in a field they clearly barely understand, dismantling systems that have been developed for a good reason, refusing to listen to experts and making matters worse?

The old workhorses of the press gallery have no idea

Two infuriatingly asinine comments by established press gallery journalists this morning, highlighting just how poorly served are Australians by the media on which they rely for political information – one by Malcolm Farr, the other by Michelle Grattan.

Grattan on the Melbourne by-election:

Gillard would be likely to cop much of the flak – within the party and in the commentary – if the Greens seize this traditional Labor patch. That would also reinforce the message from the Greens’ Labor critics about how dangerous they are to the ALP.

Great advice there, Michelle. If the Greens win, if progressive voters in a left-wing seat think the Greens are better advocates for consistently progressive policy than the ALP, then the ALP should conclude that it must attack them more (ie: smear them in papers with mad claims like “they’re going to shut down football”, and preference right-wing parties like Fundies First and the Liberals ahead of them) and alienate more left-wing voters.

The message of the Greens taking the seat couldn’t be that voters want the ALP to work more with the Greens, not less, could it?

I love this “heads” the ALP should be nastier to the Greens, “tails” the ALP should be nastier to the Greens thinking. If the ALP wins, I’d bet good money Michelle would argue that it should be taken as a refutation of the Greens and evidence that the ALP should treat them worse. If the ALP loses, well, it’s a refutation of Labor working with the Greens and evidence that the ALP should treat them worse.

No serious assessment of just what those voters might be thinking, and what the ALP might need to do to win them back. It must be infuriating being a Melbourne voter, voting Greens to tell Canberra WE WANT MORE PROGRESSIVE POLICIES (which is precisely the message of a Greens vote) and being wilfully misrepresented, again and again.

And here’s Malcolm Farr, with this mystifying swipe at Sarah Hanson-Young:

Then there was the chutzpah of such Greens as Sarah Hanson Young who last Sunday said the ALP stood for nothing. Being lectured by a senator who has never even been in Opposition, let alone government, was fuel to the heated relations.

“Never even been in Opposition, let alone government”? What the hell does that mean? The Greens have never had 51% of the seats and been a majority government, true, but they have been in a loose governing arrangement with a government that needed their vote to govern, which makes them at least as powerful as a government back-bencher. And what’s Farr’s definition of opposition, even with a capital “O”? Just how many seats that aren’t a majority does a party need to have to qualify? Every party that isn’t the government is an “Opposition”.

That sledge was just weird.

No wonder Australians are increasingly confused about politics, with the media apparently unable to understand, let alone describe, anything but the same old two horse race they’ve always pushed.

Labor throws another boring, self-destructive tantrum about the Greens

So the ALP is throwing a tantrum about the Greens. Again. Joining with News Ltd in calling them “extremists” and expressing outrage that they dare consistently stand for the principled policy positions they have told their voters they’ll represent in parliament. (The ALP calls this doing-what-you-said-you’d-do practice “ideological purity”.)

They clearly hope it will help them win a few centre-right votes from people who do think the Greens’ insistence on policies consistent with expert opinion on issues like climate change (ie, actually tackling it) and asylum seekers (ie, processing them BEFORE they get on boats, like experts actually recommend) are “unrealistic”, and that they should just be the same as the big old parties. But it certainly won’t help them in their long-term competition with the Greens.

Why not?

Because it underlines that the ALP doesn’t understand at all why lefties have left it, and continue to leave it, for the Greens. The answer is very simple – we know that if we vote for the ALP, it will use our votes to do right-wing things. That’s what it does, because it wants to be a “broad church” party and get votes from left and right simultaneously, and then abandon half its voters every time it makes a decision. And usually it’s the left that gets ignored, because the ALP thinks it can count on lefties always putting it above the COalition, it’s us or the Liberals SO WHAT ARE YOU GONNA DO EH?

Well, what we’re gonna do is vote for a party that consistently advocates for progressive policies in parliament. They negotiate, but unlike the ALP their aim is to move the status quo in a progressive direction. They will vote for legislation that moves us forward, not legislation that moves us backwards. The ALP will wander inconsistently between policy positions depending on what it thinks certain marginal electorates want it to do.

Fortunately for the ALP, Australia has a single-member electorate system for the lower house. The upshot of that is that 1.5 million Australians can vote Green (which should be 17 of the 150 seats in the House of Representatives) and be lucky to get a single Greens representative elected, because unlike the Nationals, those 1.5 million votes are spread around the country. Our votes get distributed (usually to the ALP) before they can combine to the level required to win a seat. Yeah, “democracy”.

Still, in the Senate the Greens’ vote can’t be ignored, and their increasing vote is leading to increasing numbers of them being elected. And even in the single-member lower house seats there is a critical mass that can be reached where previously-ALP seats start tipping over to the Greens. Where the ALP candidate is knocked out first and then they will have to make a choice as to whether they want to be a right-wing party that preferences the Liberals or a progressive party that preferences the Greens. Obviously some in the Victorian ALP want the party to be known as a right-wing party, which is why they’re preferencing the far-right Fundies First party. But the more the ALP does that, the more its left-wing supporters will realise that it isn’t the force for progressive change they had hoped it still was, and will leave it for the Greens.

Declaring war on the Greens is the quickest way for the ALP to lose progressive voters. Does it really want to be a right-wing party stuck competing with the Liberals for conservative voters? Because that’s where this choice will ultimately take it.

If you want progressives to vote for you, ALP, you do need to actually implement and advocate progressive policies. You need to be to the left of centre, not the right. And if you don’t want to do that, then don’t whinge when we vote for a party that is.