Monthly Archives: December 2010

First home buyers give up

It looks like first home buyers in NSW have given up:

FIRST-homebuyers abandoned hope of snapping up a house during 2010 – with new figures revealing applications for Government hand-outs dropped by two thirds.

Eligible buyers backed away as the Federal Government wound down its grants. After claiming $1 billion in grants in 2009, the numbers dropped Australia-wide this year.

In 2009, an average 19,000 first-homebuyers a month took advantage of the grants, while this year the figure fell as low as 7460 a month, according to ABS statistics.

Note that despite the article’s misleading headline, it’s not prices that have fallen. Investors still have plenty of equity to leverage, and plenty of discouraged would-have-been homebuyers to rent to.

UPDATE (1/1): The ABC does another of its pathetic “journalism by press release” stories, giving an entire article to the Real Estate Institute’s self-interested claims that it’s “potential rate rises” that are “scaring off” first home buyers – rather than the ridiculously inflated market.

UPDATE #2 (1/1): In its list of “winners” and “losers” in 2010, The Age includes as “losers”:

HOME OWNERS: Hit by four interest rate rises totalling one percentage point, then additionally slugged when the big four banks increased rates above and beyond the Reserve Bank’s cash rate rise in November.

Typical for The Age, the plight of the people it only just yesterday reported were no longer able to buy a home of their own doesn’t even occur to it.

Sorry, what bred our “most crucial freedoms”?

One News Ltd columnist, supposedly on holidays but apparently not far from the internet, is outraged that a school history curriculum could decline to evangelise for Christianity, leaving children “ignorant of the faith that bred their most crucial freedoms”.

Begging the question – precisely which of our “crucial freedoms” were bred by Christianity?

Seriously, which? I’m genuinely curious.

UPDATE: While we’re talking about the boons granted by religion: Hospital saves woman’s life; is told by Catholic leadership not to do it again.

Anyone gullible enough to fall for the Wager, we’d love to have you

The Punch today publishes a silly piece by a fundamentalist Christian (“Steve Kryger has a passion for Jesus, Rachael (his wife), social media and politics – in that order!”) running the “but what if there’s life after death” line as if that leads naturally to the conclusion that the Bible is “authoritative” and some kind of rational response to this human desire:

Generally speaking, Australians are pretty confident that ‘this’ isn’t all there is, and when life’s umpire raises his finger to the sky and sends them back to the dressing room, they will find themselves in a ‘better place’.

While this is certainly a nice thought, whenever anyone expresses this sentiment I usually respond with two follow-up questions.

Firstly, what evidence do you have that there is a ‘better place’?

And secondly, what confidence do you have that you will be going there?

And he then tries to pretend that he does have this “evidence” and can provide some “confidence” as to who’ll be going there. But, as I commented over there –

You don’t have any “evidence”, either (that’s what “faith” is for – arriving at a conclusion without evidence).

I’d love there to be an afterlife, because the idea of this being all there is is rather depressing. But how do you get past the suspicion that you’re just fooling yourself to avoid facing a depressing reality?

Funny, isn’t it, that the world is full of religious people of all different faiths, absolutely convinced that theirs is the right one and that everyone else is going to hell. And yet they can’t all be right. Funnily enough, hardly any of them have genuinely considered alternative religions – the vast majority of religious people have picked the religion of their parents and/or the country in which they live.

And it’s no more rational to say “I’m going to believe every word in this arbitrarily-constructed Bible” than it is to say “If there’s a heaven I think I’ll get there because I’m a good person”. Just because your creed is more complicated and convoluted doesn’t make it more likely to be right.

Do Christian apologists really not understand the massive logical holes in Pascal’s Wager? Or do they understand them perfectly well, but don’t mind playing on potential converts’ ignorance?

They hate Lara too

Unhappy customers to mount a class-action lawsuit against Vodafone?

Colour me surprised.

“A triumph for ignorant medievalism”

Because the NSW Discrimination Act has ridiculous exemptions in place to enable religious organisations to discriminate against people on the grounds of gender, the NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal has confirmed that in that state, religious organisations are free to simply ban gays from being foster parents.

Cardinal Pell could hardly contain his glee, breaking out his special “now I get to put people I don’t know down for stupid reasons” smirk.

I only get this smug when I’m about to pointlessly and spitefully discriminate against someone.

The Tribunal suggested parliament should review the law. As the Council of Civil Liberties president Cameron Murphy argued:

Churches who receive taxpayers money to provide services for the state – as was increasingly the case – should no longer be exempt from discrimination laws.

“It’s outrageous,” he said. “If a non-religious organisation tried to do this they would be in breach of the law. If they want to run a foster care agency they ought to be looking after the best interests of the child, not trying to push their religion on the community.”

Exactly – why should taxpayer money (and gay people are taxpayers) be used to discriminate against other citizens?

And again we see the real problem with governments outsourcing their social obligations to private organisations, here relying on churches to find foster care, provide orphanages, hospitals and charities. In my line of work, people charged with drug offences are often given the choice of jail or doing a rehab program run by a religious group – and one which takes advantage of them at a vulnerable time in their life to heavily indoctrinate them while they’re stuck there.

This is wrong. These are all things the state should be providing from our taxes. And if it did, it could bloody well tax religious organisations appropriately without them being able to blackmail it on the basis of the necessary services that they presently supply.

I’m absolutely sick of the state having to pander to “ignorant medievalism” (the phrase of one of the commenters on the News Ltd story) because it won’t do its damn job.

*Discriminating against a couple because they’re gay is discrimination on gender, since you’re discriminating on the basis that one of them isn’t a woman or a man.

Happy solstice plus three

Happy annual gift-exchanging day, everyone. Hope you have a wonderful time with your families and/or loved ones.

I like to dismember a tree, weigh it down with lights and baubles and then fail to adequately water it so it dies slowly over the month. As our dear Lord demanded.

Enjoy the Xmas atmos!

UPDATE: Isn’t it weird that they call it Christmas Day, even though it’s nearly a day before the event it’s named after (the Doctor Who Christmas Special)?

St Kilda, AFL, establishment vs teenage girl

This is a much worse look than a couple of naked footballers:

St Kilda vice president Ross Levin, speaking after the Federal Court extended an injunction preventing the girl from publishing photographs taken from footballer Sam Gilbert’s computer, vowed that she would not get off “scot-free” and that today’s hearing was only the start of the club’s legal response.

“If she thinks that because it is too late and she is going to get off scot-free and she has already put the photos out there, well she is wrong,” said Mr Levin, who is also Gilbert’s solicitor.

“This is only the start of the legal process against her. The next stage is seeking that this injunction becomes permanent and suing her for damages and costs for breach of copyright, breach of confidence and also adding claims of deliberate infliction of mental distress and trespass. The unjustified attack on the players and our club will be met by us in the strongest possible way.”

I suppose they’re banking on being able to run her into the ground with the significant funds at their disposal – certainly they’re not skimping on the high-powered legal representation. Big football club vs 17 year old nobody: what kind of a fair fight is that?

I will devote my energies – my professional knowledge, my money, the skills I’ve spent a lifetime developing – to grinding this teenager into the Earth LIKE A BUG.

That is unless the courts resist being used by the powerful to bully the powerless, and refuse to make oppressive orders just because expensive QCs have demanded they do so. Let’s hope they remember that just because someone’s unrepresented – or even absent – doesn’t mean they have to give the party present everything it demands. Particularly if it’s massively over-reaching.

Seriously, St Kilda and the AFL are in trouble here because of the allegations that their players abused and took advantage of a teenage girl. Do they really think upping the ante and crushing her as thoroughly as they can will improve their image?

UPDATE: From The Age‘s version of the story:

Mr Houghton proposed to Justice Shane Marshall that the teenager be ordered to destroy any pictures she took from Gilbert’s computer, printed or electronic, and ”without limitation, copies stored on an internet account or website, computer hard drive, memory stick, MP3 device, camera phone or in any electronic repository or format”.

Justice Marshall replied that he found the proposal ”fairly draconian” and did not want to make any orders in the teenager’s absence. He extended the order banning publication of the photographs, with the hearing set to resume this afternoon.

With the greatest respect to my learned colleague, I can’t say I’m all that sorry to hear that his submission was not accepted.