April 21, 2015

Horse 1880 - Australia's Prime Ministers - No 16 - Ben Chifley


XVI - Ben Chifley

Joseph Benedict "Ben" Chifley took over the leadership of the Labor Party and with it the premiership, on the 13th of July 1945. Within three weeks of his appointment as Prime Minister, the Second World War came to a close and the business of rebuilding and demoblising the country had begun; and it begun with rapidity.

Famously, Chifley had left school at the age of 15 to become a railway locomotive driver and as a result, joined the Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen and the Labor Party. Chifley was probably one of the only Prime Ministers to have a genuinely working class job before entering politics and in the course of representing his union, he learned industrial law from the inside.

Perhaps what Chifley is most remembered for was a government policy which had been floating around since the mid-1930s, an Australian mass produced car. General Motors-Holden's Limited had been in war production making field guns, aircraft, and marine engines. In 1947, the Chifley Government sent an envoy to Detroit and the idea of an Australian car was born.
On 29th Nov 1948, the first Holden 48/215 rolled off the production line and 18,000 people had pre-ordered one, despite never seeing the vehicle before and it costing 94 weeks' wages or £733.

More importantly though, during Chifley's only term as Prime Minister, his government created the Commonwealth Employment Service, the CSIRO, ASIO, founded the Australian National University, introduced the pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, set up funds for public housing, nationalised QANTAS and TAA, started the Snowy Mountains Scheme, set up the Coal Boards and Dairy Boards, expanded the central banking powers of the Commonwealth Bank and set up repatriation funds for returned servicepeople.

Chifley also was able via referendum to extend the Section 51 Constitutional powers of the Commonwealth to legislate for "maternity allowances, widows' pensions, child endowment, unemployment, pharmaceutical, sickness and hospital benefits, medical and dental services".
In just three years, Chifley's government passed 299 Acts, which was a then parliamentary record.

Chifley's government was able to pass legislation which made it illegal to give striking workers financial support and this was seen by the miners' federation and the largely dormant Communist Party of Australia as an attack on them. As a result, 23,000 coal miners went on strike 27 June 1949 to 15 August 1949 and in some mines near Newcastle, 2500 Australian Army soldiers were sent in to break the strike.
Even despite this, in the run up to the December election of 1949, Opposition Leader Robert Menzies was able to exploit this as a Communist "red scare" and in the expansion of the  House of Representatives from 74 seats to 121 seats, Menzies won all 47 extra seats as well as taking away one from Labor (Labor did steal away four seats from minor parties); thus Menzies held 74 of 121 in the new look house.

Chifley would remain as Opposition Leader from 1949 through the double dissolution election in April 1951 but died of a heart attack not long after the election.

April 20, 2015

Horse 1879 - F1: The Silver Streak Continues Continuing (Round 2)

Formula One supremo and very very angry man, Bernie Eccleston, came out during the week and claimed that the sport is too expensive. This of course doesn't change the fact that the deposit which he extracts from teams is $48m, nor does it change the fact that he extracts an absolutely massive set of fees from TV rights.
Eccleston cited that the expense of the sport is what's leading to 'boring' races, when in actual fact, you can almost entirely put that down to the regulations which impose very heavy engine freezes - if you do happen to have a great engine then you're laughing but if your engine is a dud, then that's too bad.

Such is the tale of Mercedes-Benz and McLaren Honda. Mercedes probably doesn't have the best chassis but they certainly have the best engines by a country 1.61km, whilst Honda have proven yet again that you can not make a silken purse from a sow's ear. The Honda powerplant is so monumentally rubbish that Honda's canaries are volunteering to go down the mineshaft. In the Bahrain Grand Prix, Jensen Button couldn't even make the start line because the engine had clagged and Fernando Alonso somehow managed to produce McLaren's best result of 2015, which was still only a pathetically paltry eleventh.

At the front, Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton almost had the perfect weekend; claiming pole position, leading every lap and winning the race. Only the fastest lap eluded him and that was scant consolation for Kimi Raikkonen who was lucky to even score second.

The silver arrows sprinted off into the distance; seemingly never to be seen again. In fact, Hamilton's only worry was during a round of pitstops when after pitting in the lead, he went back out in the lead and gave his engineers a verbal spray over the radio by asking "What happened to my lead?" as well as some other four letter expletives deleted, when he saw Nick Rosberg's Mercedes and Kimi Raikkonen's Ferrari in his rear view mirror. This is a classic tale of the undercut.
The undercut is when a team pulls in their car earlier than expected, so that they can get better use of a new set of tyres before their opponents. Both Rosberg and Raikkonen had benefitted from this and instead of flailing ten seconds behind, after the pitstops had shuffled their way through, they were only flailing four seconds behind.

The only other tale of import that happened in a race that was otherwise as bland as adding white sauce to white soup, in a white house with whitewalls, was Sebastian Vettel's excursion off track part way through the race. The Ferrari driver was at that stage heading for a podium position behind the two Mercedes when he misjudged a corner and put it into the gravel.  This allowed Raikkonen to claim third place and he sat there for an exceedingly large amount of time. Valteri Bottas was also the happy recipient of fourth place from Vettel's jaunt off track.

Raikkonen would have remained in third place if it wasn't for Rosberg's brakes beginning to fade. On the penultimate lap, Raikkonen pipped Rosberg at the last corner and then when fuel loads were at their lightest, stole away the fastest lap of the race.

Three places behind in sixth,  Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull did make it to the end of the race but only after the Renault in the back decided that it didn't want to be an engine any more and self-destructed. The relationship between Red Bull team principal Christian Horner and Renault is equally on a Mission Impossible to survive amicably. One of Red Bull's title sponsors is Infiniti, which is tied through Nissan to Renault; so this state of affairs is more or less forced to continue.


In the "John Logie Baird: Television Coverage Was Better In 1984 Cup", the year 2015 looks like it might be as much of a domination by Mercedes as 1989 was by McLaren or 2004 was by Ferrari. The silver streak continues to blaze its way out front; leaving all others in the dust.

Race Results:
1. Hamilton - Mercedes
2. Raikkonen - Ferrari
3. Rosberg - Mercedes
4. Bottas - Williams-Mercedes
5. Vettel - Ferrari
6. Ricciardo - Red Bull-Renault

"The John Logie Baird Television Was Better in 1984 Memorial Cup" at the end of Round 1 looks like this:

18 Hamilton
10 Rosberg
6 Vettel
6 Raikkonen
3 Massa
3 Bottas
2 Nasr
2 Riccardo

The Constructor's Championship is thus:

28 Mercedes
12 Ferrari
6 Williams
2 Sauber
2 Red Bull

April 16, 2015

Horse 1878 - Old Man Wagon

On Monday morning, we were finally done with a set of six document boxes (most of which contained reams of completely useless paper which presumably meant something to someone once upon a time but meant three quarters of diddly-squat multiplied by bupkis to us) and so we returned them to the client. They arrived in a Ford Mondeo wagon and although every bone and every nerve in my body was yelling vociferously against it, I thought that the wagon was cool.

What has happened to me? Should I throw out my clothes in favour of an all beige wardrobe? Should I apply to the transit authority for my pensioner's card? Should I just admit that there's no more lead in the pencil, submit to the inevitable and  start driving as the old man in a hat? (Admittedly I've already been wearing hats for ages now.)
Oh howl, howl, howl and calamity. I can't even cry "havoc!" and let slip the dogs of war. The dogs of war have fallen asleep by the fire, after chewing on my slippers.

The thing that I found extraordinary is how much space is in the back of the wagon. Having recently had a washing machine go brain dead despite being mechanically perfect, the repair bill for the computer was less than simply buying a new machine; this meant carting home a big brown box.
This and previous experience has taught me that the sheer utility of owning a hatchback outweighs any style that might be conferred by owning a sedan or coupé; so much so that I'm never going to buy another sedan again.
The Mondeo wagon had in every respect, the advantages of what a hatchback has but more so; so already it outscores the Mondeo sedan. There is a Mondeo hatchback which does exist but that's another story (and it certainly wins over the sedan). What won me over about the Mondeo wagon was the sheer volume of space in the back; I'm talking ridiculous amounts of space. If I were five years old again, the back of a Mondeo wagon could very easily be a fort in which you could hide out whilst fighting off hordes of injuns.
This leads me to an obvious question. If space is the winner, why not go even bigger on the same platform?

There is an SUV cousin to the Ford Mondeo and that is the Mazda CX-9. The thing is that I do know of someone with a CX-9 and this is where the story gets weird.
The CX-9 is as long and as wide as the Mondeo wagon; so it would be logical that it should have even more space in the back. Nope! The CX-9 because it is jacked up, has the top of the suspension towers intruding into the boot space; which means that the amount of flat area in the back is compromised. Now I guess that the sorts of people who buy SUVs don't mind this but as someone who was already biased against them, my  biases have only been confirmed further. I suspect that although the CX-9 might have an overall larger carrying capacity, it is only able to do that by virtue of being taller.
My suspicion is that the Mondeo could fit more boxes into the boot space without having to layer them, precisely because the suspension towers and wheel wells don't intrude into the boot space in the wagon as much. The walls of the Mondeo are pretty well flat but on the CX-9, it is as though there were already two immovable objects in there. Maybe it is an illusion in my mind but without the two cars side by side, I can only guess.
When it comes to flat real estate in the boot of both cars, my suspicion is that the Mondeo is the winner. In the battle against injuns, you'd be kneeling closer to your cowboy comrades; that's a terrible idea if they happen to smell.

Don't get me wrong, in a battle of coolness, the hatchback still beats everything else for me. It's just that the wagon has unexpectedly trumped the sedan in my reckoning. The SUV still comes last... unless you have a proper Four Wheel Drive and are using it to drive on dirt with it; in which case you may as well run with what Range Rover says - they're station wagons.

April 15, 2015

Horse 1877 - Walking On Perfection


What do you see in this picture?
If you said "a shoe on a set of stairs" then whilst I don't question your powers of observation, I do question your powers of imagination. What do I see in this picture? Perfection.

There are some things in life which once crafted, have never needed to be redesigned ever again.
The Bialetti Moka Pot is perfect in its execution of design, functionality and simplicity. With no moving parts whatsoever, it could even be taken camping and still produce a better cup of coffee than the vast majority of baristas working away at complicated machines that cost many many dollarpoundeuros.
Levi's 501s apart from the removal of the infamous groin rivet, have remained basically unchanged since their inception on the Californian gold fields in the 1850s. From humble work wear of gold miners (49ers), the black and then later blue jeans of Californian merchants Levi and Strauss, became the uniform for teenagers and dowdy old people alike (especially those on now cancelled television motoring shows).
However we might like to dress it up or down, the modern business shirt is practically cut the same way as it was at the turn of the 20th century. The business shirt's story does involve the deaths of more than a hundred people in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire and did bring about major changes to labour laws in the United States, but that's no fault of the shirts themselves.
I know that this might sound daft, but I think that there are some things which should be praised because of the elegant solutions they have employed. Whether by design or sheer dumb luck, I think that the stairs at Milsons Point Railway Station are practically perfect in every way.

The rise between each stair is perfect. You're not straining to climb up the side of a cliff with every step and the run is also perfect and accommodates a size 9 shoe absolutely perfectly. The width of the stairs is perfect and allows substantial ingress and egress of passage, even when there are trains arriving hither and yon up above. There are also windbreakers at station level, which means that even on windy days, for a train station which is both exposed and almost on top of the harbour, passengers can ascend and descend without copping a battering from the wrath of the elements.
Every single thing about the stairs at Milsons Point Railway Station is so utterly perfect in every conceivable way that its very existence is almost a fluke of history.

Yes there are grander stations in Sydney such as Sydney Terminal with its steel frame, arching cathedral like above; there are the twin jewels of the City Circle, Museum and St James, which are prettier than a chocolate box at Christmas; and there is what's left of the modernist Eastern Suburbs Railway line with its tiles and two-tone colour schemes but only Milsons Point Railway Station has a feature where function trumps form so eloquently.

Yet there is a kind of sadness in this perfection, a melancholia which goes by unnoticed by the general public. Maybe a few of the many throngs who cross the Sydney Harbour Bridge daily, notice this sadness but if they do, they remain silent.
Milsons Point Railway Station is a twin. Its twin died a forlorn death when the Cahill Expressway appeared and then finally when the Warringah Expressway devoured entire streets of North Sydney, the body was disposed of. I refer to the Milsons Point Tram Station which used to stand on the elevated platform where the toll booths and lanes 7 & 8 now run. Trams used to fly over the Bradfield Highway to North Sydney Station and Blue St via a box girder bridge but once the tram lines were unceremoniously ripped asunder, the tram station ceased to have a purpose.
The perfect stairways at the Railway Station were duplicated at the Tram Station and alas they too faced the hand of destruction.
Milsons Point Railway Station hasn't mourned its twin's loss though. As the sole remaining station on the bridge's approaches, it is a glory hog. It has become a prime vantage point from which to watch the New Year's fireworks displays and the bridge itself is still something whose glow it can bask in.

Beautiful perfection; melancholic destruction - What did you see in this picture? If you still say "a shoe on a set of stairs" then I still don't question your powers of observation. You may however, question my sanity because I just wrote a 770 word piece about a set of stairs.

April 14, 2015

Horse 1876 - The New Jerusalem - It's Really Really Big

The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls. The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long. The angel measured the wall using human measurement, and it was 144 cubits thick. The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth ruby, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth turquoise, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of gold, as pure as transparent glass.
I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.
- Revelation 21:15-22

Mrs Rollo and I have been working our way through the book of Revelation and have come to the conclusion that a lot of it is as confusing as all get out. It's kind of nice to know that even the scholars are as confused as all get out because at very least it says that we're not total doofuses.
The questions that we mainly have are "Does this thing happen before or after that thing?", "Do they happen concurrently?", "What does this mean any way?", "Is this something that exists now, or is this something that is yet to come?".
When reading prophetic books, it's often like staring out across a set of mountain ranges, where you know that there must be different mountains out there and they must be varying distances away but in the fog of your current view point and a road that goes somewhere else before you even get there, arguing about which is which is all a bit academic.
The new Jerusalem though, has a pretty concrete sort of description and one that's relatively understood.

It's big.

The new Jerusalem is measured as 12,000 stadia in length.
If we take the Attic standard, as used by Eratosthenes to calculate the circumference of the earth (or shorter depending on who is arguing at the time), the stadia which was made up of 600 pous (which was 308.4mm) was roughly 185.04m long. A distance of 12,000 of those is 2220.48km.
To give you some idea of how far that is away, from Sydney a distance of 12,000 stadia puts you somewhere on the world's longest straight stretch of road, on the Eyre Highway, somwhere in Western Australia.
In relation to the old temple in jerusalem, a distance of 12,000 stadia puts you in the Italian town of Frosinone, which is about 75km southeast of Rome.
It's also worth pointing out that the new Jerusalem is as wide as it is long; so it would cover an area of 4,930,531 km². By itself, that would make it the seventh largest country in the world by area, relegating India at 3,166,414 km² down a spot.
It's also worth pointing out that the new Jerusalem is as high as it is wide, as it is long. The Kármán line which is the arbitrary line of where space begins is only 100km and at 2220.48km, more than 2100 are in space. This means to say that the International Space Station and all of the satellites whizzing about above out heads at the moment, would still easily fit into the lower half of where the new Jerusalem juts into space.
At 144 cubits thick, we're talking about walls which are roughly 216 feet thick. To put that into perspective, the Aurelian Walls which encircled Rome and built under Aurelian and Probus c.271-275CE are roughly 11 feet thick. Even the thickest parts of the Great Wall of China (which is actually a series of non-contiguous walls) are only about 30 feet think; so the walls of the new Jerusalem are not quite seven times as thick as that.
But that's not even the most impressive thing about the new Jerusalem as far as I'm concerned. For that we need to look at the construction of the old temple.

He prepared the inner sanctuary within the temple to set the ark of the covenant of the Lord there. The inner sanctuary was twenty cubits long, twenty wide and twenty high. He overlaid the inside with pure gold, and he also overlaid the altar of cedar. Solomon covered the inside of the temple with pure gold, and he extended gold chains across the front of the inner sanctuary, which was overlaid with gold. So he overlaid the whole interior with gold. He also overlaid with gold the altar that belonged to the inner sanctuary.
- 1 Kings 6:19-22

The inner sanctuary described here or the The "Kodesh Hakodashim" (The "Most Holy Place") is also described as a cube; being twenty cubits long, wide and high. That works out to be about a 30 foot cube.
This "Kodesh Hakodashim" was considered to be the dwelling-place of the "name" of God.

It's kind of a strange concept to think about that the Temple was supposed to be God's fixed house, if that were possible.
When the nation of Israel wandered throughout the wilderness, they were accompanied by the presence of God himself in a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. The Tabernacle (which confusingly comes from the Latin tabernaculum) was in Hebrew the "mishkan" or "dwelling place". I suppose that once a permanent city had been established, the idea that the kind should live in a nice house and God didn't, seemed somewhat out of place.

In the book of Ezekiel, in chapter 10; following the destruction of the city of Jerusalem, we read that "the glory of the Lord departed from over the threshold of the temple". I find it particularly chilling that the presence of the Lord in the temple is never mentioned again in any of the Tanakh and only fleetingly in the New Testament.
In as many words, God leaves the house which was built for him and his presence never returns to it.

The tearing of the veil in the gospels is significant because it does spell the return of the ability of people to meet with God but that the temple itself is no longer necessary. When Jesus spoke about tearing down and rebuilding the temple in three days, he speaks about his own body and the apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth:
Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in your midst?
- 1 Corinthians 3:16
This however does not in any way even imply that God's presence returns to the twice destroyed temple in Jerusalem.

The new Jerusalem coming out of heaven in Revelation is said to have no need of a temple "because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple" but I still can't help notice the similarities between the description of the city as being a giant golden cube, which seems very close in description to the The "Most Holy Place" of the temple that Solomon built.
More impressive than the giant golden cube of a city is the implication that this massive place will once again fulfil the function of the "mishkan" or "dwelling place" of God with mankind. The very point of the giant golden cube city is the embodiment of the words "I will be their God and they will be my people*".
Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
- Psalm 23:6

Literally IN house of the LORD forever.


*There are loads of cross references for this. Pick one:
Jeremiah 31:33
Ezekiel 37:27
2 Corinthians 6:16
Hebrews 8:10
Exodus 29:45
Jeremiah 32:38
Ezekiel 11:20
Revelation 21:3
Leviticus 26:12
Zechariah 2:10-11
Ezekiel 37:26-27
Jeremiah 31:33
Hosea 2:23
Revelation 21:7
Jeremiah 24:7
Genesis 17:7-8
Zechariah 8:8
Zechariah 13:9
Ezekiel 36:28

April 13, 2015

Horse 1875 - Streaky Politics

One of the really strange things about humans is that we are pattern seekers. We tend to see patterns in data sets, even if those pieces of data don't particularly lend themselves to having patterns found in them. We also tend to see faces in things and on things sun as the moon, or pieces of toast or even electric power outlets, even though there's not necessarily a particularly good reason for doing so.

Likewise (and this is one of my favourite facts), if you look through the lists of data for successful Republican presidents, that is Republican candidates who have gone on to become president, the last time that there wasn't a successful Republican candidate who became president who didn't have either a Bush or a Nixon on the ticket, was all the way back in 1928.

To wit:
1928: Hoover/Curtis.

Then:
1952: Eisenhower/Nixon
1956: Eisenhower/Nixon
1968: Nixon/Agnew
1972: Nixon/Agnew
1980: Reagan/Bush
1984: Reagan/Bush
1988: Bush/Quayle
2000: Bush/Cheney
2004: Bush/Cheney

From 2000-04, it was of course George W Bush who was President as opposed to his father George HW Bush but that list still remains.
There was also one other anomaly in there in that Gerald Ford was President with Nelson Rockefeller as Vice-President from 1974-77 but Agnew had resigned as Vice-President in 1973; which meant that Nixon had to appoint a replacement and then Nixon himself resigned in the light of a near certain impeachment following the Watergate scandal. Thus, Ford became the only man to have become president having never been voted in.

Potentially there is the possibility that this streak might continue as George W Bush's brother John Ellis "Jeb" Bush, has been  has been considered a potential candidate in the 2016 presidential election and George W Bush's son George P Bush might be ready to run in the 2020, 2024 or 2028 election. If that were to happen, then the streak might very well run out beyond a century.

Streaks like this exist in Russian politics as well. With the exception of Georgy Malenkov, who was  Premier of the Soviet Union from 1953-55, Russian leaders have alternated between bald and hairy, all the way back to the beginning of Tsar Nicholas the First's reign as Emperor of Russia in 1825:

Bald - Nicholas I
Hairy - Alexander II
Bald - Alexander III
Hairy - Nicholas II
Bald - Georgy Lvov
Hairy - Alexander Kerensky
Bald - Vladimir Lenin
Hairy - Joseph Stalin
Bald - Nikita Kruschev
Hairy - Leonid Brezhnev
Bald - Yuri Andropov
Hairy - Konstantin Chernenko
Bald - Mikhail Gorbachev
Hairy - Boris Yeltsin
Bald - Vladimir Putin
Hairy - Dimitry Medvedev
Bald - Vladimir Putin

Had I thought through this blog post better I might have had some salient or singular ending for it but I don't. Instead, all I have is an excuse to give you a creepy picture of Brezhnev's eyebrows:

April 11, 2015

Horse 1874 - Migration Amendment (We Want The Authority To Bash People In Immigration Detention Facilities and Cover It Up) Bill 2015

Peter Dutton, the current Minister for Immigration and Border Protection; who took over the position from Scott Morrison, has a history of being unapologetic.
In 2008 whilst he was in opposition, he was the only member of the shadow cabinet to abstain from the parliament's apology to the Stolen Generations. One can only assume that he's not sorry at all.

Presumably he's also not sorry about the use of force against people being held in  immigration detention facilities either, if the decidely Orwelllianly named "Migration Amendment (Maintaining the Good Order of Immigration Detention Facilities) Bill 2015" is anything to go by.

http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/download/legislation/bills/r5415_first-reps/toc_pdf/15019b01.pdf;fileType=application%2Fpdf
197BA Maintaining the good order etc. of immigration detention facilities
(1) An authorised officer may use such reasonable force against any person or thing, as the authorised officer reasonably believes is necessary, to:
(a) protect the life, health or safety of any person (including the authorised officer) in an immigration detention facility; or
(b) maintain the good order, peace or security of an immigration detention facility.

This piece of legalise gives an "authorised officer" the use of "such reasonable force against any person or thing, as the authorised officer reasonably believes is necessary" to (and take particular notice of this) "maintain the good order, peace or security of an immigration detention facility".

In 1963, a Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram conducted a series of experiments to study the willingness of participants to obey an authority figure, even if by doing so it would conflict with their conscience.
Participants were placed into a room where they were to act as a "teacher" to direct a "learner" (who was an actor) in memorising a series of word pairs. If the learner got a word pair wrong, the teacher was instructed to administer an electric shock to the learner; this would increase in 15 volt increments every time the learner got the word pair wrong. The teachers were also told in advance that the learner had a heart condition.

Under instruction from someone in authority, the teacher would be told to continue, even if the learner exhibited signs of stress, pain, or screamed. They were given four incremental instructions:
1. Please continue.
2. The experiment requires that you continue.
3. It is absolutely essential that you continue.
4. You have no other choice, you must go on.
Roughly 65% of all participants, when under the instruction of an authority figure, applied what they thought was a 450 volt shock to the learner; such voltages would kill someone.

Milgram's experiment has subsequently been repeated on several occasions and it usually produced results around about 65%, of people who will continue to obey orders from an authority figure, even if it conflicts with their conscience.

If this experiment can be taken as legitimate, then the implications are that if you place people in positions such as being an "authorised officer", they will obey orders to inflict force upon a "person or thing", even if it conflicts with their conscience. Given human nature though and the fact that the proposed changes to section 197BA suggests that the officer "may use such reasonable force against any person or thing, as the authorised officer reasonably believes is necessary, to" "maintain the good order, peace or security of an immigration detention facility", means that this comes down entirely to the officer's discretion. That discretion, as Milgram's experiment proves, might even include killing someone if the "authorised officer reasonably believes" it "is necessary".

If that's bad enough, there's a nifty little wallpaper section which is being proposed to absolve authorised officers if they choose to apply force:
197BD Secretary may decide not to investigate a complaint
(1) The Secretary may decide not to investigate, or not to investigate further, a complaint made under section 197BB, if the Secretary is satisfied that:
(a) the complainant has previously made the same, or a substantially similar, complaint to the Secretary and the Secretary:
(i) has dealt, or is dealing, adequately, with the complaint; or
(ii) has not yet had an adequate opportunity to deal with the complaint; or
(b) the complaint is frivolous, vexatious, misconceived, lacking in substance or is not made in good faith; or
(c) the complainant does not have sufficient interest in the subject matter of the complaint; or
(d) the investigation, or any further investigation, is not justified in all the circumstances.

If force has been used against an someone being held in immigration detention, it is the Secretary of the Department of  Immigration and Border Protection who would be given the opportunity "not to investigate" "a complaint made under section 197BB" if the "the complaint is frivolous, vexatious, misconceived, lacking in substance or is not made in good faith".

This comes down entirely to a matter of opinion and because it would never be investigated, it also would not be subject to the rigours of testing within the courts either. Think about the implications of this - if a person being held at an immigration detention centre were to be bashed, shot or otherwise injured, or if they were protesting their internment, under the act, the Secretary can choose not to investigate the case and pass it off as frivolous or misconceived. Further to that, the Migration Act allows someone being held at an immigration detention centre to be sent to a state or Commonwealth prison or remand centre and this has included maximum security prisons in the recent past.

I think that the "Migration Amendment (Maintaining the Good Order of Immigration Detention Facilities) Bill 2015" is an evil and horrible piece of legislation that will result in harm. I sincerely hope that the Member for Dickson withdraws the bill or that should it pass the House of Representatives, that the Senate will block it. Upon failing that, I can only hope that the Governor-General refuses assent to the bill. I think that it very much fails the Section 51 requirement of the Constitution to uphold the "peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth".

April 10, 2015

Horse 1873 - Australia's Prime Ministers - No 15 - Francis Forde


XV - Franics Forde

There's sort of a strange legend which grew up around the Premiership of Francis "Frank" Forde.
"The only known photograph of Francis Forde as Prime Minister, is of him in military uniform; standing at a railway station."
The reason for this is that you can basically describe his week long premiership in a few sentences.
John Curtain had died in office. Forde was his deputy and took over in a temporary role. The Labor caucus voted for someone else. Game over.
That story whilst being technically correct (the best kind of correct) is a black and white snapshot of a picture full of colour and depth, and was a technicolor mess.

On the other side of the political divide, Menzies had resigned and Fadden as the leader of the minor of the two parties in the coalition, took over the job as Prime Minister. When two independents crossed the floor, Curtin passed a £1 variation budget and stole supply (and with it government) on the floor of the house. The Australian people confirmed their confidence in his government by giving his Labor party a proper majority at the next election.
Curtain though, like any leader of a large political party, had to deal with the internal factions and posturings within his own party. Curtin who was very much a Labor leftist, appointed Forde as his Deputy who was much further to the right. Curtin's premiership came to sudden and abrupt ending though - he died.
It was pretty well much always assumed that Forde would be the next leader of the party but when this was put to a formal vote just eight days later (13th July, 1945), the caucus decided differently.

Forde lost the leadership ballot against Ben Chifley and Norman Makin but would remain on as Deputy Leader of the party until the 1946 election where he lost his own seat. As Minister for Defence after the Second World War had ended, he was held as the principle actor and reason why troops were slow in being demobilised. After being ousted from his seat in Federal Parliament, he returned to the Queensland state parliament after a period as Australian High Commissioner to Canada.

During Curtin's tenure as Prime Minster though, the landscape had changed on the other side of the chamber. Following a meeting with Menzies and a few key UAP members, a conference was organised in Canberra which brought together 18 different rightist political groups including MPs and the IPA and media owner Keith Murdoch. This meeting would mark the end of the UAP and herald its successor, the Liberal Party. The party was formally announced in the Sydney Town Hall on 31st August 1945.

Had Forde remained as Prime Minister, he would have squared off against Menzies in an election race but that day never came. Labor had jotled to the left and thrown him off the cart. Frank Forde was a victim of circumstance and had the winds of political fortune been blowing in a different direction, Forde's story would have been far grander than just an interesting appendix.

April 09, 2015

Horse 1872 - Is IS A Country?

I want to set aside the murderous and barbarous nature of the Islamic State (IS) for the moment and attempt to answer a question set for me via email; that question is: "Is IS a country?"
The problem with very small questions is that there are often so few parameters to define the question properly, as to render it useless.

With only four words in this question, two of those being particles and one being the subject, the last word in the question, "country" is so hard to define that depending on who you ask, you'll even get different numbers of how many countries there are in the world. These numbers vary from 193 to a shade over 200, depending on how country-like a country is and who thinks that a given country is a country.
Do you include Macau, Hong Kong and Taipei as countries? Macau and Hong Kong are part of China but kind of not China and to further complicate the matter, both of them sent teams to the 2008 Beijing Olympics; which sounds really strange because that might be like Scotland or Nebraska going to the Olympics. Chinese Taipei thinks of itself as a country and most other places think of it as a country, even though China doesn't officially think that it exists.
Do you include Somaliland as country which is pretty well much independent from Somalia? Maybe? Should to include the Vatican City which issues its own currency, passports and what not, even though it might be part of Rome. By most accounts, the Vatican City is a country; whereas a places like Kosovo and South Ossetia aren't (but should they be?)

If the world can't settle on what is a working definition of what a country is, then maybe we could look at what country like aspects IS has and that might be a good way to answer the question.
In their favour, IS has established the rule of law of sorts within the territory it controls, in some places it has undertaken civil infrastructure repair by fixing roads and electricity lines. In that respect, IS is more country like than many places in Syria under Assad. Most visibly, IS maintains a military; which is currently causing the world so much strife.
This then is similar to the United States. At what point exactly was the United States a country? Officially it's taken to be the 4th of July, 1776, but was the place markedly different from the week before on the 27th of June, 1776? Since the actual declaration of independence was never circulated to the British, they wouldn't have said that the United States was a country, even a week later on the 11th of July, 1776. IS might very well argue that they already are a separate state (the name's even in the title: "Islamic State") and they're already fighting in that capacity.

If the measure of how country-like a country is is the indicator of if a country is a country, then this might include membership status to various international organisations. I don't think that North Korea is a member of the United Nations even though it is most definitely a country and we again return to Macau and Hong Kong at the Olympics. IS isn't a member of any international organisation as far as I'm aware but it probably wouldn't be allowed to join anyway. I don't know if not being a member of international organisations makes IS not a country because then you need to look at South Africa, Zimbabwe and Fiji which have all at various times been kicked out of the Commonwealth of Nations; that seems to be more dependent on whether other countries think that a thing is a country or not. I refer you to the United States in that summer fortnight in 1776.

Not even the idea of a defined border helps to determine whether or not something is a country or not. Granted that the idea of marking off territory by the use of landmarks and boundary stones is ancient, and there are some very famous walls and dykes which mark where a country ends but what happens in the case when these borders are nebulous or under dispute? Does a country cease to be a country if it can't define where it is? Does a country become a country if it wants to define where it is? IS currently has borders to the territory that it holds which are both nebulous and under dispute.

Frank Zappa once famously said that: "You can't be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline. It helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer." 
I kind of like that except that it excludes countries which officially oppose alcohol and there quite a few of those. I think that it would be handy if a country had at least a national sporting team of some sort (though that might make the West Indies a country and the Vatican City not a country), a national anthem, its own currency and postage stamps, a national flag, and at least one chain of shops which are unique to it. When in another country, one of the things that makes it feel like another country, is to be able to walk into a shop which is nowhere else in the world. I don't think that IS has its own currency or postage stamps and as far as I'm aware, there are no shops which are unique to IS.

On balance, I don't think that IS is a country and given their murderous and barbarous method of operation, I hope that they don't become a country either. Being afforded the title of a country, implies a sort of legitimacy and a right to govern; I don't think that IS has either of those things.

April 07, 2015

Horse 1871 - Reclaim Sanity

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-04-04/reclaim-australia-extremism-rallies-face-tolerance-groups/6370672
Rallies and counter-rallies have been held around the country, with one man arrested as opposing groups of protesters confronted each other over issues of extremism and tolerance.
The Reclaim Australia group said its rallies on Saturday were a public response to Islamic extremism and a protest against minority groups who want to change the Australian cultural identity.
- ABC News, 5th Apr 2015

I am confused.
I am not confused about the fact that Reclaim Australia exists because humans generally do not like change and some of them also happen to be predisposed to a severe dislike of people different to them; nor am I confused about the fact that there were counter rallies held in opposition to Reclaim Australia's. What I am confused about is that anyone is surprised that organisations like Reclaim Australia exist, given the history of this nation.

Reclaim Australia (which I didn't even know existed before this weekend; even now I think is an overly glorified dog and pony show) is unashamedly Anti-Islamic. They might also be unashamedly racist if it wasn't for the fact that Islam is a religion which sweeps across many nation states, ethnic groups and racial groups. This is a fact which can not be denied, for five of nine of their bullet points in the section of their website entitled "What we are about" are specifically Anti-Islamic¹, two are daft and one is impossible to enforce.
Across Europe, in nations like Germany, the Netherlands, France, the United Kingdom and the like, there are groups like this and some of them have solidified into political parties which have gained representation in parliaments. I'd like to suggest that this is unique to the old world powers but groups like this exist it the United States, presumably exist in South Africa, and on the flip side, Anti-Christian policies and groups exist throughout the Islamic world. We only have to look to the twentieth century to find Anti-Jewish policies which once swept across Europe.
I could question who Reclaim Australia thinks that they are reclaiming Australia from, and or what they are reclaiming Australia from but I think that that is kind of obvious. Being Anti-Something and Anti-Someone, appears to be very much an unfortunately normal position for people throughout history.

Yet in a strange sort of way, I kind of like the fact that Reclaim Australia exists. One of their bullet points has to do with freedom of speech and I think that this goes hand in hand with the connected freedoms of religion and expression. I think that people do and should have the right to hold opinions which are vile and repugnant, provided the exercise of those opinions doesn't cause harm and injury to other people.
The right to free speech and freedom of expression has as one of its consequences, the dissemination of people's ideas and opinions. If society has the ability to evaluate and accept or reject those ideas and opinions, then this creates something akin to a marketplace for those ideas and opinions, and because ideas and opinions are free they're not even subject to the forces of supply and demand. As a result of the exercise of Reclaim Australia's right to free speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of expression, I can form the opinion that they are a bunch of wingnuts and won't accidentally be duped into voting for them in elections, should they form a political party and run for office.
I might disagree with Islam as a thing but I still very much believe in Islamic people's right to free speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of expression as I hope that they believe in mine.

In the recent leaders' debate in the UK, which was a seven-way rumble on the run up to their General Election, I was able to make assessments about the various political parties based on what was said. Admittedly, I don't get a vote in another country's elections and watched the debate purely for entertainment purposes (yeah I know, it's weird) but the fact that you had Nigel Farage from the UK Independence Party (UKIP) being given a platform to speak, you very quickly realised that apart from one small issue, there was no real plan to organise or run a country. If Reclaim Australia does ever condense with other like minded groups in forming a political party, the fact that they have had the opportunity to speak, means that I won't vote for them because of what they have said.

I find it heartening that there was a set of counter rallies as well. Again because of people exercising their rights to free speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of expression, there have been voices as a counterpoint to Reclaim Australia. I know that this might sound ridiculous but one of the greatest contributors to world peace over the past 70 years has been the existence of cheap air travel. I will suggest that companies like Ryanair, Air Asia, Garuda, Aerolineas Argentina etc. have done more for world peace than even the United Nations because they have flown people around the world. Once you meet different people, you start to realise that people around the world have more in common than what separates them. People's concerns about putting a roof over their heads and being adequately clothed and fed, are pretty well much universal. In that respect, the questions of from whom and what Australia needs to be reclaimed from, start to look incredibly puerile.
I also find it heartening that at counter rallies, people were reclaiming Australia from Reclaim Australia because I don't think that Reclaim Australia either represents who we are or who we should be as a nation.

¹http://www.reclaim-australia.com/ - I do not endorse this group. This is link is for you to cast your own judgement.

April 01, 2015

Horse 1870 - Re: Thinking About Rethinking Re:think

Re:think (colon included) is the name of Joe Hockey's new review paper about the taxation system. I'm not sure if you could call it a discussion paper because that would imply that you have a right to reply and that most indubitably is not the case.
The name Re:think is problematic. It sounds to me as if Mr Hockey is replying to an email from one of his friends in business and we've all been accidentally CCd in. "Re" is almost always used in the context of a reply. Even though this was released on the run up to April the First, this paper is definitely no joke and is deathly serious if you happen to be on the wrong end of its policy direction.
Incidentally, the other use of the word "colon" apart from the punctuation mark which is tantalisingly hanging forlorn in the name of the paper, is that part of the intestines between the caecum and the rectum. I could make a joke about where this paper came from but you don't need a weatherman to see which way the wind blows.

The entire of taxation policy boils down to just three questions:
1. How much to collect?
2. Who to collect it from?
3. How should it be collected?
Every single taxation policy ever, in the history of the world, comes down to a combination of these three questions and how to address them. The first question fits into a broader context of fiscal policy and has other implications to do with growing or shrinking aggregate demand because taxation is a leakage from the flow of money. It also fits in with questions of fiscal prudence and whether governments run deficits or surpluses, and on future government debt and borrowings.
For the record, it seems utterly strange to me that ever since Mr Hockey became treasurer, he's been saying the phrase "Labor's debt and deficit" as though the entire federal government was going to come to a giant crashing halt tomorrow. It's almost a case of deliberate amnesia because the Labor government for the period of 2007-13 enacted every single set of tax cuts that were included in the forward estimates when the Liberal Party was in power between 2001-06. To now suggest that the previous government with its plan of tax cuts was irresponsible and to then go on an identical trajectory of more tax cuts after you've been repeating the manta of "debt and deficit" is an hypocrisy of the fiscal kind.

The last two questions though, are mainly to do with the nature of that leakage from the economy and also touch on social policy.
All three questions are in essence fighting against human nature itself because of one of the most basic qualities of mankind: selfishness. Everyone from the grandest duke, from the captains of industry, from the titans of the financial world, to the plebs, to the underclass, do not like paying tax. More generally, it is also true that no one likes paying for anything if they can get away with it. Taxation policy is then not only about fighting human nature but also about fighting human power. When you discuss questions about who to collect taxation from, invariably you're also looking at the reactions of those people from whom you happen to be collecting tax from and whether or not as a government, you think that those opinions matter and if they do, whose matter the most to you.

Re:think appears to fit in with a broader agenda of entrenching a new gilded age of entitlement for a rentier class. During the launch speech, Mr Hockey spoke about broadening the base of the GST whilst at the same time, lowering rates of income tax and company tax. These two shifts in taxation policy taken together are very much concerned with who thee government intends to collect the bulk of its taxation from.
Consumption taxes like the GST are broadly regressive in nature. That is, the burden of taxation falls more harshly on those people at the lower end of the spectrum. Poorer people tend to proportionally spend more of their income, simply in surviving. People on lower incomes generally have less of an ability to save anything and so quite often, their spending rates are pretty close to 100% of their income or sometimes even more in certain periods. This being true, by increasing consumption taxes like the GST, the overall taxation mix becomes more regressive because those people who are able to save more, do not spend their savings (by definition) and aren't faced with a consumption tax on the portion of their income they don't consume.
Income Tax and Company Tax are interesting animals. Nominally poorer people only derived their incomes from wages but people with larger stores of capital which has been parked, have access to other income streams like rent, interest and dividends. Companies are either a collective form of ownership or in the case of very small companies, vehicles to minimise tax and create a separate legal person from the owners. For people in small business and people who have the ability to create companies, there are always strategies which can be developed to minimise tax payable. It is even possible to hire people like me, accountants and financial managers, to crunch the numbers and work out what the best positions are to minimise tax and whether or not that involves paying out wages or dividends. This is simply impossible if you do not have access to the necessary capital to make this worthwhile.

There is also an acknowledgement that superannuation is being used as an upper class taxation rort of sorts and so there are some tinkering to do with the incomes generated from very large deposits from within the superannuation system but I can tell you that as soon as any law is changed that has significant effects, armies of people like me will be ready and waiting with out calculators and spreadsheets at the ready to work out what the new best positions are. For most people who do not have any sizeable funds in superannuation, the existing funds managers will continue to shift numbers around screens as they always have done. Re:think is likely to have zero effect when it comes to retail, wholesale or industry super funds.

Re:think at least on the face of it, appears to be answering questions 2 & 3 by deliberately shifting the taxation mix from the top end of the income scale to the bottom. The reason given for this is supposedly to encourage investment in Australia but given that many multinational companies already pay minimal or zero tax in Australia, I fail to see how it is possible to reduce their taxation burden further. By shifting the burden of taxation from the top to the bottom though, it does kind of address the first question of "How much to collect?" because poorer people have less of an ability to avoid the burden and certainly no ability to shift the domicile of their income in the same way that a multinational company can.

Coupled with other plans to lower penalty rates and abolish overtime rates, Re:think fits quite nicely into a broader agenda of redesigning society itself and pity you if you're at the bottom.

March 31, 2015

Horse 1869 - What Sort Of Job Would You Do?

There is a lesson to be learned if you post your email address online. Sometimes, due to the power of the Internet, people send you email and ask you questions.
If you would like to send an email and ask a question, my address is rollo75@yahoo.com.au

If you weren't writing for a living, what would you be doing? What sort of job would you do if you weren't a writer? 
- Pippin1987 (email address withheld), 24th Mar 2015.

I'm touched that someone thinks that I do this professionally. That must say something about the perceived quality of what I write (or else just feeds my ego). I am confused though. This blog is hosted on blogger.com which itself kind of suggests that I'm not really that "professional" for want of better word. It might indicate though that some aggregator of content could be monetizing what I wrote without my knowledge though.
Don't get me wrong, Blogger is a great platform. It's just that people's patience to read even five hundred words has been whittled down to virtually zero thanks to Twitter and Facebook, and because of this whilst I've seen many many blogs burst into to life, virtually all of them flicker, fade and die. I personally no one else who still keeps a blog to the same degree that I do and that would have done back in 2005.

In answer to Pippin's first question about what I would do if I wasn't a writer, I have to clarify that I'm not a professional writer. I work in an accountant's office and that's what keeps the bill collectors at bay. If there was money to be made in blogging, I certainly haven't seen any of it.
Let's assume for a second that I was though. In my varied career, if you can call anything I've done a career, I've worked in retail, in warehousing, in an abattoir, a bank, various administration positions, as a court recorder and of course in accounting. I suppose that since I was born in the final quarter of the twentieth century, the idea of a job for life was already a dead concept and when I did enter the workforce, it was in a slow recovery period after a recession in which unemployment exceeded 10% and interest rates had topped out at 17%. The idiom that "beggars can't be choosers" seemed perfectly apt to me and as someone who had recently entered the job market, I took whatever was going. I don't see that any differently now.
If for some reason, I did find myself looking for another job, I suppose that I'd either look in administration or accounting but neither if those things is where my passion lies. No employer is going to hire someone on the basis of a blog (and three books) to wrote for them.

Ideally I'd like to write copy for the ABC, or work as a script writer for radio but I think that it's more likely that Air Porcine will start taking passengers from Devon to St Bacon. Had this question been asked of me in 1985, I probably might have said that I'd like to be a writer of some sort but the whole world of writing has changed at least twice since I was born. Once upon a time, people would become journalists or novelists and submit copy and stories to editors and agents, to be published. In that world, book editors and agents would keep slush piles of manuscripts which they might release for eventual publication but I'm not sure whether anything like that even exists anymore. Nor do I think that news outlets keep armies of journalists and opinion writers under their employ anymore and this has basically an entire industry to fend for itself as freelance writers.

In an absolute world of fantasy, I would have quite liked to have been a professional motor racing driver but seeing as there haven't really been any more than about two dozen Formula One drivers who were actually being paid to race at any given point in time since the late 1970s, that really is the stuff of dreams. Given that I'm simultaneously older, taller and heavier than every driver in Formula One, even if for some reason everything had aligned and I was the heir to an outrageous fortune, putting me into Sebastian Vettel's Ferrari would be like trying to cram Magilla Gorilla into a pair of ballet flats and have him stand en point for the Bolshoi. Again, Air Porcine would be trying to undercut Qantas on price from Sydney to London.

I think I might have had fun as a detective for the police force. During my time as a court reporter, I was often sent down to Central Police Station with tape machines to record and make notes on the interrogation of suspicious persons. Most of the world of policing involves petty larceny and grievous bodily harm and so I don't think I'd enjoy that very much at all.

There are a bunch of other jobs which I think would be ace, like being a motoring writer and getting to fang about in cars all day long, or being a "holiday tester" and testing holidays and hotel rooms, or a radio announcer, or the guy on the Today show. None of those things are going to happen though.

I've also thought that it might be fun to work in a butcher's shop. One of must very first jobs was on the kill floor of the abattoir before it was demolished to make way for Sydney Olympic Park and whilst I saw sheep and cows go in, I never saw shanks, sirloin or silverside come out. I think that it's important to know that the animals which become our food are respected whilst they are alive and on the journey to becoming our dinner.

Sheer pragmatism says that if I wasn't working where I am, then I'd be working in admin or bookkeeping, accountancy or finance somewhere else. That's neither fun or interesting but it stops everyone named William from harassing me... all Bills have to be paid.

March 30, 2015

Horse 1868 - 65 Things About Sydney.

1. The only things that tourists know about Sydney are the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House.
2. Which falls in line with what Sydneysiders like to promote about Sydney, the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House.
3. The Opera House was expected to cost £4m but came in at $110m and 11 years too late.
4. Which again falls in line with Sydneysiders' world view. The only things that matter are property and location; which have hideously overinflated prices.
5. Even though Sydney is the home of fashion week, we know squat all about fashion... but isn't the harbour pretty.
6. We like to think of ourselves as a city of beach lovers despite the fact that most people in Sydney live more than half an hour's drive from the nearest beach.
7. When we get there, we're forced to hand over the equivalent value of the GDP of a small nation to a band of automatic mechanical bandits, for the privilege of parking our car there.
8. As a city, we're incapable of building cars.
9. Or toasters, washing machines, refrigerators, microwave ovens, or televisions for that matter.
10. We like to think that we have a rivalry with Melbourne.
11. Even though Melbourne has better theatres, cafés, comedy venues, public transport and sporting culture.
12. Unlike Melburnians, Sydneysiders won't show up to watch our own sporting teams, if they happen to be losing.
13. Which doesn't really matter since Sydney's game is Rugby League.
14. Which is definitively rubbish.
15. As evidenced by the fact that nobody else in the world really cares about it (not even Melbourne).
16. And we hold 10,000 strong crowds in stadia designed to hold 40,000 people; thus creating an atmosphere akin to the moon.
17. Probably because all the matches are too far away.
18. Probably because everything is too far away.
19. Except if you live in Sydney's east where all of the public transport, happens to be.
20. Except the people there won't use it because they don't like having to share with the people of the west.
21. State Parliament is on Macquarie Street in Sydney.
22. Government House is also on Macquarie Street in Sydney.
23. The Governor's house used to be in Sydney's west but even the governor moved out as quickly as he could.
24. Neither the Governor or the Premier of New South Wales seem to know of the existence of anything west of Redfern.
25. Except when there's an election on and they suddenly start talking about the "heartland" and "grass roots" voters.
26. Sydneysiders know of the existence of the Blue Mountains though.
27. But complain when they can't get a skinny mochaccino frappé.
28. Because let's be honest, even baristas are embarrassed by Sydney's faux coffee culture.
29. Syndeysiders like single origin coffee.
30. Especially if we're ignorant of the fact that that single origin created a monoculture in that foreign country; thus driving up the price of other basic staple goods as growers switched crops.
31. Or if those countries are controlled by military juntas.
32. But the people who are displaced by terrorism, war, famine etc. are certainly not welcome here.
33. Because we believe in "stopping the boats".
34. Even if the people who have been displaced are as a result of our air force blowing their countries to pieces.
35. Even though most people who arrive in Australia illegally or overstay their visa, arrive through Sydney Airport.
36. Which we secretly love because it's through there that we leave on our holidays.
37. But we also secretly hate because they don't do a skinny mochaccino frappé there, the same way as they do in our local café.
38. We like to watch loads of cookery programs on television.
39. Whilst we delude ourselves that one day we might actually cook something ourselves.
40. We think that $40 is an acceptable price to pay for a meal in a restaurant.
41. When the total area of the actual food on the plate is smaller than our fist.
42. But the area of the plate is larger than a Pacific island nation.
43. So we'll buy a pie afterwards anyway.
44. We think of ourselves as great intellectuals as evidenced by the Sydney Writers Festival or the Vivid Festival.
45. Most people in Sydney have read less than three books in the last calendar year.
46. Less than one in five of us buy a newspaper in a week.
47. But we'll gladly accept the free newspaper handed out at railway stations.
48. Even if they are filled will smut from cover to cover but are surprisingly lacking in actual news.
49. But given the quality of journalism contained therein, the price of zero is about right.
50. Because our daily newspapers are either a stream of erzats intellectualism or illiterati masquerading as news.
51. Given that we only have two to choose from; that's not surprising.
52. More people in Sydney get their news from the BBC website than they do from local media outlets anyway.
53. Our most trafficked website is the Bureau of Meteorology.
54. And we go into a panic every time there is a storm.
55. Which is weird because Sydney gets more rain than Melbourne.
56. Even though we accuse Melbourne of being the "rainy city".
57. We cut each other off in traffic at every single possible moment.
58. We drive as close to the car in front as we possibly can, so that no one will cut in front of us.
59. When we do use our indicator, we make sure that it only flashes once or twice.
60. We think ourselves so important that all of the single digit motorways are in Sydney.
61. And we still refer to the F3, the F6 and the F7, despite those names being removed ages ago.
62. Lots of us drive SUVs despite never ever leaving the tarmac because we're afraid of getting out cars dirty.
63. And because we're afraid of being seen in a hatchback.
64. But at least that's better than sweating along with humanity for 120 minutes as we're all packed in like sardines in a train system that was designed for the 1930s.
65. And sharing smells which probably contravene Article 5 of the UDHR which deals with torture.

I think that the perfect metaphor for Sydney is an Easter Egg. It's brightly coloured in a shiny piece of foil but ultimately hollow; leaves a slightly sour taste in your mouth and doesn't smell quite right. It's overpriced for what it is and unlike a Kinder egg, doesn't even come with a fun toy.

Sydney - As flash as a rat with a gold tooth. No style; no substance but isn't the harbour pretty?

March 28, 2015

Horse 1867 - NSW Election 2015 - The State Of The State

Hello vote lovers, politic beatniks, parliamental fundamentalists, mums, dads, aunts, uncles, and kiddies who just like going for a ride on the swinging seats. It's mate with mate and hate versus hate, in the battle for the state. In the race for the premiership where you decide who wins, who is it whose team reigns supreme? Who rules in the house of green in 2015?
Welcome to the bout to knock the others out. This is the 2015 NSW Election.

From my position here in the "Joseph Cahill House of Horrors" I've seen two very different campaigns.
Team Liberal with their leader Mike "The Brawler" Baird, has certainly been trying to push the message that Luke "Babyface" Foley is too into inexperienced to run the state, whilst running a second standard message of hospitals, schools, roads and 'get tough on crime'.
Labor have mainly tried to run a big scare campaign by talking about electricity prices once the state's electricity networks are privatised, should Mike Baird retain the top job. Luke Foley has been markedly absent and that's mainly because nobody knows who he is.
It's Incompetence versus Cruelty. It's Inexperience versus Theft. When the people decide the lesser of two evils, it's important to remember that they've still chosen an evil and that's what Election 2015 is all about.

Unlike other elections in the recent past, this one wasn't just about a generational changing of the guard. The 2010 Election broke the previous streak of 11 years of Labor and this was during a national trend of flipping the state parliaments from red to blue. At one point during the previous national election cycle, the Liberal with the highest job was Campbell Newman who was Lord Mayor of Brisbane, when all six states, the two territories and the federal government were all held by Labor. 2010 came after the GFC but before the hung federal parliament. 2015 comes after the 2013 federal flip and after a couple of budgets where federal Liberal has deeply irritated the electorate.
Even despite Liberal's unpopularity at federal level and even though PM Tony Abbott seems intent on deliberately making gaffes and thoroughly ticking off as many people as is humanly possible, Mike Baird remains as a reasonably popular Premier but is trying to sell a privatisation scheme which is deeply unpopular. It seems that even after Liberal MPs were found by ICAC to have been corrupt, and with former Premier Barry O'Farrell resigning over what appeared to be unexplained gifts, the electorate has either forgiven or is too stupid to remember the carry on and fuss over the last five years.
On the other side of the chamber, John Robertson resigned as Opposition Leader after it came to pass that his signature had appeared on procedural documents relating to the gunman who shot apart the Lindt Cafe. John Robertson will more than likely retain his seat of Blacktown but that out an end of his aspirations to lead the party to the election, just four months out from judgement day. The problem for state Labor was that they had so few members as a result of the 2010 election that they couldn't fill a fridge and so Luke Foley won the post when music stopped in the game of musical chairs. As Opposition Leader he always looks completely stunned, as though he is a mule with a spinning wheel - no one knows how he got it and danged if he knows how to use it.

"Four more years" is the chant coming out of Liberal Party HQ and tonight Mike Baird within ten words of his victory speech used the word "mandate". I find the word "mandate" to be troublesome because parties are elected on a whole raft of policies, which means that you get the bad ones along with the good ones. If it helps, whenever you hear the word "mandate", replace it with the word "unicorn" if that helps.
So when the state wakes up tomorrow morning and realises that it has effectively voted to privatise the electricity networks, just remember that we still might have a government owned electricity network... it'll just be owned by EDF, and the French Government.


March 27, 2015

Horse 1866 - My Kitchen Bores, enter the Iron Chefs!

Now that we've reached the Elimination Rounds of My Kitchen Rules, my interest in the show has pretty well much fallen off the cliff. Yet as I was watching the show, in between bouts of watching Baldrick walk around Cornwall on SBS, or Rimmer looking at massive steam engines on 7Two, I couldn't help but notice that staring in front of me were all of the ingredients needed, not for another round on My Kitchen Rules but for another cooking show - a greater and more glorious cooking show that will win the fame and ovation of the people forever - Iron Chef.
You have two sets of fully stocked kitchens in Kitchen HQ, enough space to move cameras around in and even the core of what could very easily be a full roster of Iron Chefs.
What I was watching was a fully decked out Kitchen stadium but with the wrong television show being filmed in it. It was positively screaming to be repurposed and used for the part that it was born to play. Allez Cuisine!


Looking back at the first incarnation of Iron Chef Australia and you very quickly realise that it was always going to fail. It was hosted by Grant Denyer who it must be said is a pretty host; he always comes across as an entirely pleasant host and that just doesn't work. The roving host does need to be kind of neutral but only if they realise that they're the least interesting part of the show. Mr Denyer as the host on Family Feud on Network Ten works so well because he is so pleasant and happy.
What Iron Chef needs though, is a anchor who is completely hat stand and so stark raving bonkers that they carry the show. It would help if they're incredibly vain and have an ego bigger than Western Australia. The premise of the show is fine but the back story needs to be so outlandish and ridiculous that it crosses the line twice. It would be utterly perfect if the producers could find someone who the public had never heard of before, to dazzle in a burst of insanity. There is a candidate who springs to mind though and that is Jason Geary, who is perhaps most famous as the iSelect guy. Heck, even cast him as the iSelect guy if the company is fine with it. Geary has already been on television before in the Micallef P(r)ogr(o)am(m)m(e) as well as having extensive improv experience in Melbourne theatre. Write a whole back story for him, about being a zillionaire and searching the world for new and exciting taste creations.
It also needs a commentary team who are absolutely serious. They fulfil the same job as the play by play and colour commentary on any sports commentary, and so they need to be able to fulfill those roles in the same manner. It can't afford to be too over the top because the commentary team aren't the stars of the show. Maybe get the existing voiceover guy from MKR for the play by play and Pete Evans as the colour commentator. Pete could give insight into why certain foods need to be prepared in certain ways and what flavours work in harmony with each other.

Next comes the task of selecting the Iron Chefs. Guy Grossi should reprise his role as Iron Chef Italian and get Manu Fiedel as Iron Chef French. Maybe if Colin Fassnidge didn't object you could get him to be Iron Chef Irish and then get Dorinda Hafner as Iron Chef Carribean, Kylie Kwong as Iron Chef Chinese and Adam Liaw as Iron Chef Japanese.
Karen Martini and Liz Egan would stay on as the two standing judges and the other two judges would be filled with celebrities, sports people, politicians and anyone else who'd be game to come on. Get people like Annabel Crabbe, Karl Stefanovic, Barnaby Joyce, Jackie O, Adam Goodes, Merrick Watts, Emma Alberici, it'd be a great hoot.

Clearly whoever has been funding MKR for the past five years has had the necessary budget to fly lots of people around the country but the beauty of Iron Chef is that you don't need lots of OB gear; nor do you need to fly upwards of 30 contestants around if the show is always filmed in one place.
I don't think for a second that there was anything necessarily wrong with the format of Iron Chef Australia, it was only the execution of it which lacked bite. I think that there's enough talent and star pulling power already within the current MKR show to make Iron Chef work but that MKR reaches a point where the show suffers from battle fatigue. This isn't even a one off thing either, it's happened on every series that has been made.

Give us a chance to see Guy, Adam, Colin, Kylie, Dorinda and Manu cook competitively and let's see just how good the hopeful chefs of Australia are. Most of them are going to lose against the Iron Chefs and that's kind of the point. If ever a challenger beats an Iron Chef, they win the fame and ovation of the people forever.

March 26, 2015

Horse 1865 - Covering Callousness In the Name of "Lifestyle Choices"

Individuals have fairly extensive choice over the quantity and quality of education, skills, and work-relevant experiences they accumulate, and this human capital investment has a major bearing on observed wages earned by women and men.
Studies show that Australian girls generally perform better than boys at school, but tend to prefer enrolling in humanities tertiary courses, which subsequently pay relatively lower wages in employment, rather than the sciences, which offer higher career wages.
...
It generally appears that women tend to assume working roles which provide more pleasant and safe conditions, and which provide greater flexibility for part-time work to accommodate family responsibilities.
- Dr Mikayla Novak, Senior Research Fellow, IPA, in The Age 8th Mar 2015¹

I'm becoming increasingly convinced that the words "lifestyle choices" are code words in the same style as "work choices" and have roughly the same meaning - that is, "we are justifying apathy coupled with cruelty".

This article by Dr Mikayla Novak, Senior Research Fellow at the IPA sounds on the face of it, completely logical. However the implications of the article are about blame shifting and the necessary apathy which must follow as a result of that blame shifting.
Firstly the premise of this piece suggests that it is mostly down to women's choices that they happen to get lower paid jobs than men. Those choices I'm assuming include such issues as raising children and choosing jobs which are more altruistic in nature. Since it is being suggested that the price of wages is or should be determined by the market, which is unquestioningly taken as being utterly virtuous and efficient, then the prices which result from the operation of the market are also unquestioningly taken as being utterly virtuous and efficient.
Speaking as a white male, aged between 25-65 I am perfectly qualified to speak about women's "lifestyle choices" and how that relates to wage pricing because I'm not  personally affected by the issue inasmuch as I am not a woman and therefore will never suffer the shortfall in earnings as a result of those choices. Not only am I not remotely affected by women's "lifestyle choices" and how that relates to wage pricing but people like me who happen to make up the other side of that market place are also not remotely affected by the outcome of the issue; as a result, they generally do not care about those outcomes which arise as the result of "lifestyle choices". If you look at the ratio of who was fighting for equal pay for women and who is currently advocating higher wages for women, I wager that less than 1% of those people are men.

The goal of business is to make a profit. Profit is generated by selling goods and services at higher prices than the input costs which are required to produce those goods and services. People who own businesses and make decisions which relate to the profitability of a business can achieve greater profitability in one of two ways.
1. They can adjust the selling price of their goods and services so that they sell more by volume.
2. They can adjust their input costs so that on a per item basis, those costs are less.
It must be remembered though that Wages are an input cost. For more information please reread these two dot points.

Whilst markets are incredibly efficient, the only outcome which markets are capable of delivering is one based on price. Markets are amorally and apathetically concerned with how that price is achieved. In a perfect theoretical market, it is assumed that all Suppliers and Demanders have equal power and equal information on entering the market. This actually isn't true in the real world. In virtually every market which exists in the real world, there are price takers and price makers and both of these groups have varying levels of market power.
Businesses and firms who are Demanders in the market for labour, are generally able to exert more market power than Suppliers. The problem with a labour market though, is that the suppliers of labour are employees. The motivation for an employee is different to that of the business. As an employee is a labour supplier, their wage is an input cost to the business. Businesses whose motivation is to return a profit to their owners, would prefer to reduce those input costs as much as they possibly can (and to zero if they can possibly get away with it).

Here's the rub. If you've made the "lifestyle choice" to be born as a female, then you probably are born with a greater sense of family, community and altruism than if you'd made the "lifestyle choice" to be born as a male. If you've made the "lifestyle choice" to have a child, then you're probably 98% likely to bear the monetary costs of doing so, either through the "lifestyle choice" of leaving the labour market for the period of time of that child's early life; before you can either drop them off in child care (where you then have to pay for someone else to look after said child from post-taxed wages), or some extended period of time on reduced or zero wages whilst that child goes through schooling.
It's even worse if the father of the child has decided to make a "lifestyle choice" and has left the woman with the child, to bear all of those expenses by herself.
If a woman has made the "lifestyle choice" of having a child and then spending a few years out of the labour market, then that period of time will be a noncontributory period with respect to superannuation. Thus, that "lifestyle choice" which is usually made earlier in a woman's life, will have quite marked effects in her retirement due to the compounding effects of interest and the like.

Speaking on behalf of all white males, aged between 25-65, we've made the "lifestyle choices"  of choosing not to be born as a female,  not to bear the interruptions to out careers as the result of having children and because we're more likely to own businesses or have the power to make decisions on behalf of businesses, we're also more likely to be price makers in labour markets and to be more amoral and apathetic, and less altruistic when exercising that power.
The only rational "lifestyle choice" when participating in labour markets is to choose to be a white male; so that way all of the other "lifestyle choices" never have to be made. Males will never suffer any of the direct effects of having children; neither will they suffer any resultant effects in their retirement either.

"In a free and prosperous country, the government should not be fixing any price in the economy - and that includes the price at which we choose to sell our labour," says Dr Novak.
"Minimum wages presume that workers are incapable of judging whether the compensation offered is sufficient for their work.
Excluding low productivity workers from the employment market, minimum wages prevents those workers from getting the foothold necessary to gain experience and skills.
In other words, the minimum wage is a key driver of Australia's poverty trap."
- Dr Mikayla Novak, Senior Research Fellow, IPA, 22 Jan 2015²

While we're at it, the reason why the minimum wage exists is precisely because there is an uneven spread of market power with respect to labour markets. Without there being minimum wage laws in existence, businesses would choose to pay employees as close to zero as they possibly could in some circumstances. I absolutely concur that "Minimum wages presume that workers are incapable of judging whether the compensation offered is sufficient for their work" because in some cases, that is demonstrably true and its cruel to exploit that.
In the past that has included issues like slavery, or paying women less because they were women; currently it exists with the rise of unpaid internships.

Even the words 'minimum wage' should be taken as a signal from businesses that "we'd like to pay you less and lock you in by contract but we can't because that's the 'minimum wage' we can legally pay".

The current argument about wanting to reduce penalty rates in the name of reducing youth unemployment is almost completely a lie. In almost every case, it is about paying existing employees less, rather than wanting to hire more employees or extend business trading hours. Choosing to extend trading hours is like any other business decision, dependent on whether or not a profit can be made.
The reduction of penalty rates and the abolition of the minimum wage, are almost solely about reducing input costs for employers and nothing else.
Reducing penalty rates and abolishing the minimum wage has a very large effect on labour markets. It has the effect of pushing the supply curve for labour which leads to a new lower equilibrium position for that labour. Pushing this sort of legislation through the parliament is a very large and ostentatious display of market power and is very much in favour of price makers.
What I found particularly dishonest about the reply that I got from Dr Novak when I asked her about how she reconciled the two issues of so called "lifestyle choices" of women and the abolition of the minimum wage, is that she said that there was none.

hi, no inconsistency. One deals with minimum wages, the other with above-minimum wages. Ta for tweeting!
- @NovakMikayla, 21 Mar 2015³

Anyone who looks at the labour market with only a customary glance would notice that it is women who are more likely to bear the brunt of such legislation. Women are more likely to work in the retail sector and in lower paid industries such as childcare and so are more likely to be directly affected by the abolition of the minimum wage. Maybe Dr Novak thinks that it's even virtuous and efficient that the market should find a new lower equilibrium position for women's wages. Obviously I can't comment because I'm a white male aged 25-65 and so people like me are less likely to be directly affected by the issue (though people like me are more likely to be exerting market power, making decisions which affect other people and more importantly, benefiting from the issue).
If the minimum wage is abolished and penalty rates reduced or cut, it then means that the same people then have to work longer hours to achieve the same level of wages that they would have done previously. If there is a single mother who needs to find the money to cover expenses like rent, electric, water, groceries etc. then I suppose that you could call the operation of the market which would result in her working longer hours is both virtuous and efficient and you may even choose to blame her for her "lifestyle choices" but I think that it's cruel and that policy makers who don't consider this are also cruel.

It's also worth remembering that the IPA was very much represented in that first Canberra conference of the Liberal Party and that the IPA and the Liberal Party have been closely aligned ever since. Often what gets discussed in IPA papers becomes Liberal Party; it's often a case of the tail wagging the dog.

I think that it's important to be asking questions with regard to gender pay inequality and issues surrounding the minimum wage and the like but to conclude that the market is entirely virtuous and produces the most net good for the most people is in my opinion, not particularly well guided at all; at worst, it's downright callous.

¹https://ipa.org.au/news/3262/pay-gap-due-to-women%27s-choices-not-gender-bias
²https://ipa.org.au/publications/2327/ipa-welcomes-minimum-wage-inquiry
³https://twitter.com/NovakMikayla/status/579137696292999169

March 25, 2015

Horse 1864 - Do I Know You?

Moving forth and back across this massive conurbation we call Sydney, as I do ten times a week, it is probably inevitable that I'm going to run into either someone that I know or who knows me, at some point. The world is sufficiently small enough that chance meetings do happen occasionally, such as James Cook meeting the same Pacific Islander on different islands on different voyages. There used to be a segment on the drive segment on a radio station called "Six Billion To One" and there were many of these chance meetings which callers would tell the stories of; so I don't think it unusual.
Except that because one can only observe the universe form one's own viewpoint, when it does happen, it is noteworthy and apparently remarkable. This is one such story.

I was coming home on the train and madly tapping away at my tablet on a piece about Frank Forde (the eight day Prime Minister), when a lady say next to me and after a few minutes, said: "You're Andrew Rollason", to which I replied in the affirmative and she proceeded to tell me that we had been to high school together.
The problem was that when I asked her name, it was someone that I didn't remember and given the fact that I left school almost twenty years ago, I didn't really have the necessary memory hooks or the context to work out who this was. She knew who I was but I genuinely wouldn't have been able to identify her from the four millions of people who live in this giant mass of humanity perched upon the eastern seaboard. If you do happen to be reading this and you were that person on the train, please send me a tweet @rollo75 or an email at rollo75@yahoo.com.au because (and I hope that this isn't taken the wrong way because I don't mean to be mean), I don't remember you at all.

I can remember a whole host of completely useless information such as the number on Philippe Alliot's Ligier in the 1985 Formula One Season, or the valency of Astatine, the various powers of the parliament under section 51 of the constitution, the explanation of the thousands of stars that John Glenn saw in his Mercury capsule but I don't remember the names of most people that I went to school with almost twenty years ago. Nor do I remember the names of the vast majority of people that I happened to have worked with in very large organisations.

I'm reasonably sure though, that this is probably true for a lot of people. There is an observable phenomenon where you can walk into a room and have no idea why you entered it, or you can forget whether or not you locked the front door, or you can drive home and not remember most of the journey. If you have a thing which in context is part of a larger system, then it's more likely that the whole system will remembered as a single item.
To wit:
Could you remember the following string of numbers?
177618121915194519662001
The more astute readers will have noticed that those numbers when broken up suddenly become 1776, 1812, 1915, 1945, 1966 and 2001. It has long been said that history is not about dates but about stories, and the only reason why any of those dates is important is because of the stories behind them.
For instance, I was playing a game of three a side knockabout football in the park on Sunday and when I got home, I couldn't for the life of me, remember where I'd put my mobile phone. Even after searching hither and yon, I had to drive all the way back to the park and it was only there that I'd remembered that I'd put the phone in the glovebox of the car. The reason why retracing one's steps works so well is that you return to the points where stories (however trivial) again have context.

I'm sure that this lady in her latter 30s is quite important to a great deal many people but the reason why I don't remember who she was is entirely due to the same reason why a string of numbers are so hard to remember - I don't remember any stories where our lives crossed paths. Yet the weird thing is that for some reason unknown to me, I must have figured in some story in her life which she remembers. Given there were 120 people in our grade, it is logical that the conditions existed where that must've happened but I've got no idea what they might have been.
A school teacher once told me that for the 30 plus years that she'd been in the job, she could remember most the children who had been trouble but that she couldn't for the most part remember any of the nicely behaved children. This speaks to me of some reinforcement process of memory and I hope that that's what's gone on here, that this person was one of the friendly forgettable people. What does that say about me though? I don't think that I was terribly ill-behaved but I guess that I must've been weird enough to be memorable. I don't know if I'm pleased about that or not.

I'm sorry that I don't remember who you are but I suppose that must mean that you were/are a nice person. That was literally half a lifetime ago and I'm afraid that my memory gallery must have thrown out a heap of stuff, a long time ago. I can remember where I was when I heard the news that Princess Diana died, or when the twin towers of the World Trade Centre were struck by those planes but if you asked me about a non specific day in 1994, unless it was the Bathurst 1000, or the FA Cup third round, I have no idea about who sat where in most classes high school or even who the heck these people were. Give me a name and I might nod my head but that's not the same as a shared story whose memory stretches on through the years.

March 24, 2015

Horse 1863 - The Liberal Party Thinks You Can Just...

Firstly an "instructional" video.


This I can only assume is the Liberal Party of NSW's method of showing complete and utter contempt for the operation of democracy and the decent and respectable people of New South Wales¹.
I argue that the name of the video is wrong. It shouldn't be "How to Vote on 28 March 2015" because that's legally a lie. It should read "How we Think You Should Mark Your Ballot Paper on 28 March 2015". The video on YouTube then helpfully, denies any conversation about the subject with the delightful tag that "Comments are disabled for this video".

Why does this stick in my craw so? Why am I so riled up and wound up tighter than a spinning top which is ready to go? Why? Because I think that this video is inviting the decent and respectable people of New South Wales to throw their preferences down the toilet. It even condescendingly tells the decent and respectable people of New South Wales that they "can just vote one", in the same way that you might tell your enemy that they "can just naff off".

The reason why we have preferential voting in Australia is almost a century old and even involves the to ancestors of what would become both sides of the coalition in Australia, and formally the Liberal-National Party in Queensland. Preferential voting was originally introduced for mechanical reasons; which I shall now expand upon.

In the 1918 Swan by-election which took place under the first-past the post method (that is, the candidate with the most votes won), Edwin Corboy won the seat despite having more than 65% of the electorate vote against him. The votes fell as follows:

6540 - Edwin Corboy (Labour Party)
5975 - Basil Murray (Farmers and Settlers Party - which would become the Country Party and finally the National Party)
5635 - William Hedges (Nationalist - which was succeeded by the United Australia Party and then the Liberal Party)
884 - William Watson (Indpendent)

As the Farmers and Settlers Party candidate and the Nationalist candidate were both centre-right candidates, they effectively took votes off each other, which meant that the Labour candidate won. Had this happened in 2015, it would be akin to if a Liberal and National candidate had taken votes off each other and a Labour candidate won.

As the  United States Declaration of Independence says, "Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed". How can you possibly have the consent of the governed when only 34% of the electorate voted for the winning candidate?
Clearly, when you have almost two-thirds of the electorate who are of a broadly different political hue to their eventual elected representative, then it makes a mockery of democracy itself.

Just on that idea, the phrase "the consent of the governed" implies that power flows upwards rather than downwards. Members of Parliament should remember that they are there to represent their constituents; this is made all the more obvious in some houses of debate where even the title of the chamber is the House Of Representatives.
This being true, then that consent should in theory be derived from at least half the population. In a full preferential voting system, they majority of votes is 50% + 1 of all votes counted; the important thing there though is that at some point, in order to achieve that 50% + 1 of the votes, consent has had to be given, even if that is through preferences. In optional preferential voting, if one's preferred candidate is eliminated and some has "just vote 1" on the ballot paper, then those votes are discarded and do not count for preferences. This campaign has in effect, actively told candidates and encouraged them to surrender a degree of their democratic right of speech through the ballot box for no other reason than it suits their political ends.

I think that any campaign which erodes democracy, should be stomped into the ground. This campaign should be seen for what it is, an attempt to disenfranchise people through legal operation. Just because something is legal does not make it right or just and the fact that in Queensland where there were signs reminding people to take back their vote and the Liberal Party kicked up a stink about this, is insidious.

The other important thing that preferential voting does is give signals to those in power. Currently there is no "none of the above" option for the electorate to voice their displeasure at the candidates. In an age where we have a political class who are increasingly disconnected with their electorate, and where cynicism of the political process and indeed politics itself is shown by the electorate, the ability to send messages via the ballot box is very important.

What do you do if you don't lime the candidates or the major parties? Under a first past the post system, you could vote for a minor party, or for someone on the fringes, or even a lunatic candidate but after the votes are counted, your vote may as well been flung down the toilet for all the good it did. In a preferential system, you can mark your ballot paper in favour of all the wingnuts and dropkicks you like, safe in the knowledge that your eventual preference for the major party candidate will be counted.
Now I know that opponents of preferential voting will argue that it gives people several bites of the cherry but it's only in a very few electorates and political races where independents are elected; most of those are either ex-members of major parties or local community activists who've spent years fighting for their community. Duverger's Law suggests that in single member constituency political systems, that in the long run, the system will tend to favour a two party system. This took about 10 years to establish itself in Australia and since 1918, preferential voting system in Australia has proven to be perfectly sensible and reasonable.
Preferential voting performs one last highly important function. In the marketplace of political ideas, the electorate really only gets to voice its opinion once every few years. Because preferential voting allows the electorate  to mark preferences for parties who are outside the normal domain of politics, these preferences can and should act as signals to the major parties. Signalling is important in things like complex markets for derivatives, other goods and services and labour markets, and so to actively campaign against these signals being expressed through the ballot box, I think shows contempt for the electorate itself.

Actually this campaign has changed my voting preferences quite markedly for this upcoming election. In telling me to "just vote 1" on the ballot paper, the Liberal Party has ensured that I'm going to put them last on the ballot paper. I'm putting them last because they've shown that that is where they put me, and I'm going to use my vote to express my displeasure.

¹ In the words of Francis De Groot - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=19R0d1VCGxM