February 27, 2012

Horse 1280 - No Confidence in No Confidence

Now that this whole drama has been played out; the pieces have been put back on the board where they're supposed to go, can we please just go back to the business of the grand old game of politics?

In Horse 1279, I predicted this as the first of four possible outomes. Julia Gillard has been returned as the leader of the party; she has retained her job as Prime Minister. Everything will continue as before.

Tony Abbott I'm afraid will continue to spout the rather stupid line that the Prime Minister should be elected by the people despite the fact that this is not how the system works in a Westminster Parliament; there is no such thing as direct democracy as he is wan to suggest.

Further to this, I think that something else I alluded to in Horse 1279 was also in evidence, that Malcolm Turnbull really is the Liberal Party member with the most political competence and nous.

8:51am: Opposition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull says this "dysfunctional, chaotic" government makes the Addams Family look good. Mr Turnbull says now is the time for the independents to vote for a no confidence motion.
- ABC News Website, 27th Feb 2011

At 08:51am, more than an hour before the Labour caucus meeting was held, Turnbull suggested the only real sensible course of action that the Liberal Party should have embarked upon.
Whilst there was still ill-sentiment in the air, I would have sent either the party whips around or been sending every possible member in chambers to the offices of the four Independents, with the intent of asking them to vote in a motion of a loss of confiednce. Did that happen? No.

Mr Abbott renewed his call for an early federal election.
"The clear answer from today is that the only way we can get real change is with an election," he said.
"The prime minister should be chosen by the people - not the faceless men."
Asked if he would move a no confidence motion against the government, Mr Abbott remained uncommitted.
"I have no confidence in this prime minister," he replied.

- Sydney Morning Herald, 27th Feb 2012

I think Abbott if he was really serious about forcing an election, should have called for a censure motion. The fact that he didn't means that although he personally has "no confidence in this prime minister", I suspect that he can't get sufficient people to cross the floor with him in his lack of confidence.

As it stands nobody holds any election triggers and there hasn't even been a loss of supply either. I personally think that because we have such a fracturous parliament, Gillard won't call an election until 30 November 2013 which is the last possible day following the issue of the writs.
Because the parliament is perched on a knife-edge, the biggest concern for a lot of Labour Party members is little more than self-preservation; I don't think she'd risk losing even one of them. It therefore stands to reason that Gillard won't be the one to call an election before the expiry of the current Parliament.

I think this line from that ABC Timeline is quite curious:
"Mr Abbott says Australia needs an election, not because he particularly likes elections or because people need the inconvenience, but because the country needs a government elected by the people not run by the faceless men."

I hate to break it to Mr Abbott but Australia HAS a government elected by the people. Australians went to the polls on 21 August 2010. A government was formed from the sitting members. I suppose that you could suggest that Labor caucus is faceless but it's no more faceless than the equivalent Liberal Party caucus.
If Abbott was serious about wanting an election, then why doesn't he just force one. The mechanism exists. Maybe he's just too poltically coward to pull the levers? If that's the case, then the person whom Abbott actually has no confidence in as proved by his lack of action is... himself.

February 24, 2012

Horse 1279 - Avalanches Ahead, Business Continues Below

I envisage several things which might result from the events of the Labor Party caucus meeting next Monday.

1 - Julia Gillard is returned as the leader of the party, retains her job as Prime Minister. Everything continues as normal.

2 - Julia Gillard is returned as the leader of the party; retains her job as Prime Minister. A vote of no confidence is tabled before the house and the government loses the support of the Independents and the Green. This results in:
2a: The calling of a General Election.
2b: The formation of a new Liberal government provided that they can secure the support of the Independents and the Green with respect to supply bills.

3 - Kevin Rudd regains the job as the leader of the party and becomes Prime Minister. Everything continues as normal.

4 - Kevin Rudd regains the job as the leader of the party and becomes Prime Minister. A vote of no confidence is tabled before the house and the government loses the support of the Independents and the Green. See 2a and 2b.

The real problem that I have with either 2a or 2b is that Tony Abbott as the leader of Liberal Party in the House of Representatives would become the next Prime Minister. Tony Abbott to me seems as directionless a leader as Julia Gillard, whereas at least you could say of Kevin Rudd was that his government did have a series of plans even if they might have been beaten down. The other problem is that an Abbott government would have either Joe Hockey or Julia Bishop as Treasurer. Hockey has the personality to be the PM and given that the role is of minister without portfolio, he can't exactly damage it but having said that his ability to hold numbers is lacking. Bishop on the other hand as Shadow Treasurer has outright lied to the electorate and when pushed about the numbers not actually adding downwards, referred the press to Treasury estimates.

The Liberal Party's brightest and most talented politician for a reason completely unknown to me is hidden away in the minor portfolio as the Shadow Minister for Communications and Broadband. Malcolm Turnbull is easily without doubt the member with the greatest degree of business acumen, having been the Secretary for Australian Consolidated Press, a partner of Goldman Sachs and the CEO of Ozemail. Clearly you'd want such a person either as the Treasurer or the Prime Minister or even both (there is precedent in Westminster Parliaments) and the fact that he's not there is I think nothing short of rank stupidity on the part of the Liberal Party.
Rob Oakeshott told ABC Radio National's RN Breakfast show this morning that if the Government falls over he would approach Turnbull to lead and be the next PM. Clearly Rob Oakeshott and possibly the other Independents are the only sane people in the building.

If Gillard is returned as Prime Minister, then Rudd will probably find himself in the political wilderness. I don't think he'd be ever given another cabinet role while Gillard is in the top job. Likewise if Rudd regains the job as Prime Minister then I don't think we'd see Gillard back in his cabinet either. I think that because Wayne Swan has been so intemperate with his outburst, that would mean that he'd also more than likely lose his job as Treasurer, which is sad because Swan is the closest thing that the Federal Labor has to a sane person.

Assuming that a General Election is called as the result of all of this, then almost certainly we'll see a Liberal landslide. The Labor Party as it currently exists is pretty well much unelectable. It would be the last thing that several Labor backbenchers would want because the actions of their leadership would cost them their jobs despite the quality of the job they'd done.
If that happens, then the fallout from this might be felt for some time. Individual arrogance is probably what caused Chifley to lose his job and ultimately saw the Labor Party walk around in the political wilderness for the next 23 years. I fear that if the events of the past week have a similar outcome, then that's bad for democracy generally.

February 23, 2012

Horse 1278 - Alleged Leadership Spills and Electoral Illiteracy

This may shock people but the truth is that the vast majority of people didn't vote for the Prime Minister. Unless you happened to be in the Electorates of Lalor or Griffith, you also did not vote for for either Julia Gillard or Kevin Rudd either.
The Prime Minister is the customary leader of the goverment in the House of Representatves. In fact the office of Prime Mnister is not directly named in the Constitution Act 1900 either. Government itself is made up of a majority of members who sit in the House of Representatves and even then that majority might theoretically be made up of one, two, three, lots of parties and indeed the whole parliament if that should be.
This presents in my mind a tremendous illiteracy and ignorance by the people of Australia if they suggest that they "didn't vote for Julia" or "didn't vote for this government". No. You are of course perfectly correct with the exac definition of those words but the sentiment that somehow the parliament, government and office of the Prime Minister is somehow violated because people don't understand the system, I find somewhat laughable.

I'd even like to reitterate at this point that although Kevin has resigned from his position as a cabinet minister, that doesn't necessarily mean that he intends to run for the office of Prime Minister. Of course he might do so and that is a matter for the Labor Party Caucus when it next meets on Monday but until then, anything which is said in the media to do with speculations about spills and re-spills are little more than a vast chasing at the wind.

Supposing that Kevin does become head of the Labor Party after Monday, that of itself is still no actual guarantee of becoming the Prime Minister. If a vote of no-confidence is passed by the house, then the Governor-General does have the authority to invite someone else to form government. It might be theoretically posible that after Monday, the crossbenchers switch their alliences and we'd have a new coalition government being formed with a new slightly shifted majority of members, as happened when John Curtin replaced Robert Menzies as PM.
There is also the possibility of a vote of no condfidence; such a move I suppose has plenty of historical precedence, although none in Australia. Technically a vote of no-confidence need only be passed with a hideously simple motion such as the motion which read "That this House has no confidence in Her Majesty's Government"¹ which deposed James Callaghan's Labour Government and installed Margaret Thatcher's Conservative Government in the UK in 1979. Treasurer Wayne Swan has also hinted at precisely that in the suggestion that Rudd was "deliberately risking an Abbott Prime Ministership"². Now I don't know if that's necessarily true but to voice such an opinion was either done in the heat of the moment or through very real naked fear.

I still don't honestly believe that there will be a run for the Premiership by Rudd next Monday. I think a sense of self-preservation by MP's tenuously clinging onto their seats would justify that. Not until the player which has made the signing appears on the park and playing, am I inclined to believe rumours.

¹- http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1979/mar/28/her-majestys-government-opposition-motion#S5CV0965P0_19790328_HOC_190
²- http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-02-22/wayne-swan-statement-on-rudd27s-resignation/3846188

February 19, 2012

Horse 1277 - Alledged ALP Leadership Spills and Dud Reporting by Australia's Sub-Standard Media

I have been following sport for a very very long time. When it comes to a football club making a new signing, rumours do very little to sway me; even publicity shots of the player shaking hands with the manager and showing off a club shirt with names and numbers on, also do very little to sway me. Not until the player which has made the signing appears on the park and playing, am I inclined to believe rumours.
The same also goes for Formula One. You can have publicity stills of the driver with the team and even have video of the driver actually testing the car. As the Lola Mastercard team showed in 1997, you can even have the whole team show up for Friday qualifying but unless the driver appears in the car on the grid on Sunday, you still can't fully guarantee that the driver has signed for the team.

So it is with politics. Politics is as much of a sport and game as football or Formula One and the players and supporters are just as fanatical and dare I say it, stupid, when it comes to the rumour mill.

I refer now to a report from the ABC:
Speculation is continuing to mount within federal Labor party ranks that the Prime Minister's allies in Cabinet are testing her support.
There are reports in both Fairfax and News Limited newspapers that ministers, including Nicola Roxon and Craig Emerson, have been privately lobbying their colleagues to support Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
The reports suggest some Cabinet members have been warning backbenchers that a return to a Rudd government would destroy the Labor party.
- ABC Feb 18, 2012

Just because a rumour appears in our obviously partisan press is no cause to assume that anything is happening whatsoever. News Ltd newspapers have often bashed the Labor Party and whilst they haven't declared open support for the Liberal Party in the same way that The Sun and The Times have openly declared their support for the Tories in the UK, its reasonably safe to assume that they do given News Ltd's general stance. It's also reasonably safe to assume that Fairfax newspapers like the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age whilst they don't openly support the Liberal Party, would favour them. Also given that Gina Rinehart who is a mining business woman has openly declared war on the Labor Party and has now become the newspaper group's biggest single non-institutional investor with a 14% holding, that Fairfax's editorial opinions aren't neutral either.

If you actually look at the statements being made by the Labor Party we find comments like this:
But during an interview with SKY news, Finance Minister Penny Wong refused to be drawn on the speculation about an imminent leadership challenge by Foreign Affairs Minister Kevin Rudd.
"You've asked me quite a number of questions on this issue and I've made clear I'm not going to engage with this," she said.
- ABC 18th Feb, 2012

Apart from the obvious that a Labor Party cabinet minister isn't going to openly say if any leadership attempts are being made at all, the fact that Fairfax and News Ltd together keep on badgering ministers and backbenchers is an indication that the only reason that anyone is talking about a supposed challenge for the leadership if it in fact exists is that Fairfax and News Ltd together keep on badgering ministers and backbenchers.
I also think that it's sort of unfair that serious political discussion is being constantly hijacked on precisely this issue. I don't think that it would be beyond Fairfax or News Ltd to insert people into the crowd during episodes of Q and A and to be totally frank, the fact the question of any alledged leadership challenge being asked every single week is both boring and to be honest rather pathetic.

For the record I don't honestly think that there is any serious leadership challenge being mounted within the ranks of the Labor Party; second to that, I think that the reason why its being reported that there is, is because of open manipulation by the media companies. Basically the electorate for the most part are in fact idiots and if you keep on saying something often enough, then eventually it's bound to become truth, right? The whole thing seems to be only a couple of steps away from the American experience in which the media reporting of politics is even more moronic and even shoutier.

Somehow I think that the Australian people deserve better from their media outlets; I think that it's an outright failure in the quality of journalism in this country but I don't think things are going to improve in a hurry.

February 09, 2012

Horse 1276 - Nissan Is No Longer "Missan"

At 11am this morning the official announcement was made that Nissan Motor Co and NISMO will be entering as a manufacturer into the V8 Supercar series. There will be 4 cars run initially with two of them to be run by Kelly Racing and the other two as yet unnamed.

NISSAN will join the V8 Supercars Championship in 2013 and become the first new manufacturer to enter the sport under its new ‘Car of the Future’ rulebook. The news was announced today at a press conference in the River Room at Crown Casino in Melbourne.

The Japanese car giant will take on Holden and Ford in next year’s championship – the first run under new ‘Car of the Future’ rules.

Kelly Racing has signed with Nissan to become the company’s factory team and will run four cars next year from their Melbourne workshop. The team will have the full support of the giant NISMO Nissan Motorsport organisation.
- Via Bigpond and the Official V8 Supercars site, 09-02-12

Personally I think that this will be a boon for the sport, will probably help to rekindle interest from new sponsors and raise the profile of the sport overseas.

The question I suppose is where does Nissan get its 5L V8 from? The answer is actually pretty obvious - the Infiniti FX50.
Infiniti being Nissan's "premium" brand for the United States is the only market where the engine is sold. The VK50VE in road going trim puts out 390bhp and is a 90° Double Overhead Cam unit. Presumably for V8 Supercar racing, they'd throw away the DOHC heads and replace them with a SOHC pushrod configuration as per the Car of The Future rules.
Of course they need not even do that. Given the the CoTF rules allow any engine to be "debranded" and placed into any car (it's allowable for instance to put a Holden V8 into a Falcon, they could just as easily use the same racing engines as now which are usually Auroras and simply bolt them in. None of the diff, gearbox, suspension, floorpan, wiring loom, fuel tank, roll cages, firewalls, needs to be developed at all because these are mandated by the CoTF rules.

The Nissan press release doesn't reveal very much unfortunately:
Looking through the current line up of cars sold by Nissan worldwide, the only suitable donor car is the J32 Teana which is sold in Australia under the Maxima nameplate. We know for certain that it will take the VK50VE because the engine bay is identical to the Infiniti FX.

Somehow I suspect that come mid-2012 because the J32 Teana is now a bit long in the tooth, Nissan will replace it with the new model and that will be the car will Kelly racing gets. As far as Nissan's marketing goes, it's a perfect arena to launch the new car.
I wouldn't mind betting that Nissan are possibly also trying to twist the arms of the JGTC to change the regulations of the Japanese GT500 series to have the car admitted there as well.

I for one welcome out new players and wish them well. Of course my offer to drive if anyone wants me still stands... anyone?

February 08, 2012

Horse 1275 - Something's Wrong And Nobody Notices

What's wrong with this photo?

Can you see it?

No, it isn't the sort of dim expression of the person behind the counter because quite frankly if you were only paid the sort of wages that they probably are, you'd have good reason for your eyes to glaze over too.
Nope, the thing which is wrong with this photograph is the word "mini's". Do you see that now? That apostrophe has been left to hang there in mid-air in state of complete despair. Not only is it plain wrong but it also looks silly.

The apostrophe has three uses:
1. To mark a contraction, as in words like "don't", "isn't", "it's" and "fo'c'sle"
2. To mark a possessive case, as in Jimmy's Kebab or the cats' dinner bowl.
3. To mark words which come from other languages for which we don't have an adequate mark in English like the Qu'ran or Fa'afafine, or the names O'Grady and d'Souza.

Some style guides will allow you to use an apostrophe for plurals of things which aren't actually words in English, such as the phrase to "mind your P's and Q's". I think that this is rather silly because you can end up with a case where an apostrophe has two uses within the same cluster, as in the '90's.

In the sign above the most obvious impression is that it's supposed to be a plural for the word "mini". It looks like it could be a contraction and there might even be a case for a "mini" to own something, if indeed an inanimate food item can own anything at all.
You'd at least think that a large firm like Hungry Jack's which itself has a possessive apostrophe in it's own name would have got this right but they've gone to the trouble of having these things printed and not one person has seen the error.

Looking silly in a formal document even if it is merely an advert poster is a bad thing for a company because it instantly rules you in line to be made fun of...
"The burgers are better at Hungry Jack's... which is a good thing because our grammar is rubbish".

February 01, 2012

Horse 1274 - I Shouldn't Have Expected Actual Journalism in The Australian

On the front page of Monday's Australian the following article ran:

PROFITABLE and well-funded banks are critical to the health of the Australian economy at a time of global uncertainty, bank leaders warned as they urged politicians to stop bashing the big four financial institutions.
- The Australian, 30th Jan 2012.

I really wonder what the intent of running such a thing on the front page of the Oz is. Presumably it's either the banks trying to use media pressure to make the government change policy or it's just the Oz trying to curry favour with its potential advertising base. Whatever the case, I think that the article almost hints at economically illiteracy.

To wit:
In and Economics 101 class on the very first day we would have seen this diagram:

The most basic two sectors of the economy are the Households and Firms. Whilst it's handy to note where the money is flowing in the form of wages and spending, it's even more fundamental to note what ultimately drives every single transaction which exists and which has driven every single economy since before time dot.

Every economy has at its base, the production of goods and services. Heck, we even measure the overall health of the economy on this measure with GDP. The figure of GDP or Gross Domestic Product, is the final market value of all goods and services produced within a country within a financial year.

Whilst it might be true that the banking sector does help to enable the transfer of funds which can be made available for investment, the biggest drivers of GDP are things which are actually being produced and services which are genuinely being performed.

If we take the current Australian economy as an example, the state currently experiencing the greatest growth is Western Australia. Why? Because Western Australia currently is producing a lot of raw goods. Of course it would make logical sense if the Australian economy itself would produce more elaborately transformed goods but we don't seem to be able to do so.

Historically the world's biggest powers have also risen to power on the basis of goods being made and services being performed. In the ancient world, a nation grew more powerful with more people under its control. Admittedly in a world in which agriculture was the biggest single sector, then this was very closely linked to the area of land which a nation could control.
During the Industrial Revolution and the rise of Entrepreneurs, the focus shifted from agricultural products to other sorts of products. We can basically follow the rise of nations with the sorts of products they produced, Britain, the United States and now China have all risen (and sometimes fallen) on the basis that they could make stuff and sell it.

The thing is that the banking sector whilst providing the service of buying and selling funds, is entirely funded on the basis of other sectors in the economy producing goods and services.
I take issue with the statement "PROFITABLE and well-funded banks are critical to the health of the Australian economy" for two rather glaringly obvious reasons.

1. The truth is that if there were no domestic banks at all in Australia, the economy would still function more or less perfectly. The process of producing goods and services would continue as it has done for centuries. In fact the whole idea of banking in a modern context didn't even start until the renaissance. The word bank itself comes from the Old Italian "banca" which described the tables or benches upon which the businesses of houses like Medici, Peruzzi and Bardi operated.
Even in a modern context, a bank is little more than a coupon shifter. Profits are extracted from "customers" who borrow money from the bank and then have to pay back the principle plus interest and the extra money which is used to pay interest comes from the production of goods and services.

2. The implication of the phrase "PROFITABLE and well-funded banks" suggests that Australia has banks which are not profitable or well funded. Just to put this in perspective, the profits as listed in 2011 by just the big four banks were as follows: NAB $5.220bn, WBC $6.991bn, CBA $4.723bn, ANZ $4.510bn. Together they made $21,444,000,000 in profit. The suggestion that the banks in Australia are not profitable is both idiotic and/or an outright lie (mind you, given the rest of News Corp's abilities to make up news, it's not beyond the Australian to lie on it's front cover).
Also, the big four banks have collectively $3,276,512,000,000 in funds under management. Perhaps the Australian would like to explain just how it is that just four banks with more than three trillion dollars under management are some how not "well-funded".

There was one line in the article which I gagged at, which was:
"The Reserve Bank could move on rates as soon as next week because of job layoffs and poor consumer and business confidence, "

Job layoffs? Perhaps we should point the finger at the banks themselves on this one:
AUSTRALIA'S financial services industry delivered another blow to the country's workforce today with news of pending job losses and work functions heading offshore.
Suncorp Group said it will cut 71 jobs at its insurance arm to improve back-office efficiency and Westpac said it expects to finish the financial year with fewer staff, the companies said today.
The job cuts are the latest to hit workers in Australia's financial services sector, after ANZ Banking Group announced plans to cut about 130 jobs last week; investment bank UBS predicted that Australia's banks will shed 7000 jobs in the next two years.
-The Australian, 25th Jan 2012.

Poor consumer and business confidence? Well, considering that the Global Financial Crisis itself was caused by the banking sector and their predatory lending practices; allowing ridiculously easy credit to people who should have never been allowed to borrow in the first place which led to a hideous undervalue in the pricing of risk and even dare I suggest outright fraudulent underwriting practices, then wouldn't those things lead to poor consumer and business confidence?

No, the reason for running such an article is to do with Don Argus the former NAB CEO and current NAB chairman Michael Chaney probably have a "quiet talk" with the Australian's editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell. Mind you, Mitchell himself isn't averse to lying either. I guess any excuse to bash the government is good enough, even if you have to write a great big pile of balderdash, blather and bunkum.