26 May, 2015

Yes Mr Hockey, there is a problem with that

On this week’s Q and A, Treasurer Joe Hockey was asked by audience member Mark Travers:
There has been a lot of talk recently about double-dipping. As Treasurer, do you believe that politicians receiving an away-from-home allowance of $270 per night to stay in a house owned by their spouse is double-dipping?
Since the question was asked in the abstract, the treasurer answered in the abstract:
Well, no, because ultimately you have to pay for the rent or you have to pay for the hotel accommodation, whatever the case is. You are living away from home and employers pay that.
It took host Tony Jones to point out the fact that the questioner was obviously referring to the fact that, as reported in the Daily Telegraph last year, when staying Canberra, Mr Hockey actually claims $270 per night living away from home allowance to stay in a house that is mostly owned by his wife and possibly by his father.

When the point of the question was made unavoidably clear, Mr Hockey’s first response was to say he doesn’t think his father still owns it. Really, Joe? You think that’s the issue here, when it’s still majority owned by your wife? And if you want to make that the issue, how can you not be sure? Certainly with many rental arrangements, tenants never know who the owner is, but when one of the owners is your wife and the other may or may not be your father, how can you not be sure about that?

Jones again brought the treasurer around to the main point, asking if the more than $100,000 expenses that Hockey had claimed for living in the house had in fact gone into paying the mortgage. Mr Hockey’s response was “Well, Tony, I don't know. I pay rent.”

Let’s be fair here – there are plenty of married couples who keep their individual finances separate. Let’s just say that it challenges credulity that he doesn’t know where the money goes when his wife and possibly his father are his landlords.

So when Jones again asked for clarification that Mr Hockey pays rent to his wife, the response from the man who has declared an end to the age of entitlement was telling:
Well, hang on, well, is there a problem with that?

Since you ask Joe, yes, there’s a problem with that.

There’s a problem with that because you are claiming the full amount of $270 per night, which is about the going rate for a nice hotel room, not a family home. If you choose to rent a house rather than a hotel room, that’s your choice but if it’s your own bed and a place to keep your toothbrush that you’re interested in, there are some lovely apartments close to Parliament House for under $500 a week. If you’re being charged the maximum nightly rate, then you’re being ripped off. Or someone is.

There’s a problem with that because you and your colleagues have recently come out against new parents calling them double-dippers and not avoiding the words “fraud” and “rort” when they were legally using the system as it was intended. This is relevant because your accommodation arrangements, while innocent in the abstract, look very much like double-dipping to the casual observer considering that you are paying rent – and it would seem like a lot of rent – to your wife. Do you charge her rent when she stays at your Sydney home?

There’s a problem with that because you are claiming the full amount when it is probably not costing you the full amount. And you are doing it at a time when your government is penalising part-pensioners who have saved the government money by having some superannuation, and your colleague Mr Morrison says to those who miss out, “Thank you for saving for your retirement.” I do not begrudge you a comfortable and familiar place to lay your head while working away from home, but if you passed the savings on to the taxpayers I would sincerely thank you.

There’s a problem with that because your government is always keen to make the moral argument against everyone from new parents using the law as it was intended, to those fleeing for their lives who don’t bother to call their nearest embassy to make sure all their paperwork is in order. Your arrangements are not illegal, in the same way that Google’s tax arrangements are not illegal. They’re not illegal because no-one making the law was ever devious enough to imagine it would be used this way. You obey the letter of the law but not the spirit.

There is a problem with that because politicians are also, God help us, role models. You tell us the age of entitlement is over but you do not lead by example. You are benefitting from travel allowance arrangements not because you need to, but because you can. In doing so, you are telling the rest of the country and especially the younger generation, that it’s okay to grab as much as you can get while the getting is good, and that’s a disgraceful example to set.

No-one is suggesting that you are not acting within the law and I may be wrong about some of the assumptions I have made. I certainly hope I am. And I know you are not the only one who sticks to the very letter of the law when it comes to travel and accommodation. But when you make the semantic argument that you are merely paying rent and you don’t know where the money goes after that, to the casual observer, it sounds disingenuous. It sounds particularly disingenuous when you lecture others about having to find savings and the end of entitlement. So yes, there is a problem with that.
  
 

23 May, 2015

Thinking of Linking

This week I have been mostly reading...

Australia:
US:

UK:

World:
Wealthy businessman buys $8 million rescue boat and saves thousands of migrants in makeshift vessels

Philippines offers refuge to desperate migrants trapped on boats  Think about that for a moment.

Media:
Bill O’Reilly Accused of Domestic Violence in Custody Battle So on the one side, you have an (alleged) wife beater and drug abusers, on the "liberal" emessem side, you have a guy who exaggerated his war zone experiences and another who donated to the Clinton campaign. Yeah sure, they're each as bad as the other.

Scott McIntyre sues SBS for discrimination over 'political' sacking for Anzac Day tweets

Mental health:
Men do cry: one man’s experience of depression (Trigger warning: discusses suicide)


16 May, 2015

Thinking of Linking

This week I have been mostly reading...

Australia:
Italian navy chief sceptical of Australian asylum seeker solution to Mediterranean migrant crisis

Really Mr Abbott? $185k not 'especially high'?

Treasurer Joe Hockey: the man who knew to mulch

Message from the Vice-Chancellor on the Australian Consensus Centre

Sophie wants to stand for Libs in Indi

Universities 'censor' bad ideas all the time, Tim Wilson. It's called learning  "You don’t get to have your ideas heard just because you really like them, because you say them over and over again, or because you’ve got powerful friends in the government."

Joe Hockey no ‘phantom Treasurer’, says PM

Budget Night, A Bear's Perspective 

Watch out: this is a booby-trapped budget

Here lies Tony Abbott, a feminist

Stupidity of Abbott and Hockey indicates they have not learnt from mistakes of last year's budget

George Brandis' extraordinary raid of the Australia Council

Johnny Depp's dogs: the war on terrier hides the battle elsewhere It takes a special ability to make the case for the importance of quarantine and still come out looking like the bigger arsehole. Quarantine is essential. Being a dick about it is optional.  

US:
Lawmakers Moved To Delay Rail Safety Rule Weeks Before Philadelphia Derailment  

'Homeless Jesus' sculpture gets downtown home

UK:
Lynton Crosby: the man who really won the election for the Tories

Riot erupts in London against re-election of Conservative prime minister David Cameron

It was the working class, not the middle class that sunk Labour

Prince Charles 'black spider' memos reveal lobbying of Tony Blair I find most of this unremarkable. It sounds like a concerned citizen writing to the government which, apart form the homeopathy nonsense, is really no big deal. The really disturbing like is this:
"Blair later berated himself as “a naive, foolish, irresponsible nincompoop” for introducing [the Freedom of Information Act]."

Music:
America live in Melbourne

Laser Turntable

BB King

The Edge falls off edge of stage mid-song as band begin world tour

The Blockheads: Beyond the Call of Dury

Media:
'Simpsons' Mr. Burns walking away from $14 million deal

The death of the political interview?

The death of the political interview 

History:
Habitat 67, Montreal's 'failed dream'

Tech:
"Creep" shamed on Facebook was actually man taking selfie with Darth Vader Think of this before piling on in any social media shaming campaign

I got stupid on me and I need to wipe it off on you:
Jeb Bush didn't say Apple Watches should replace Obamacare. He said something weirder.

House Republican: Pope should stay out of politics But you're still cool with nutcakes like Pat Robertson, right?

The least boring photo on my camera roll:

And finally...





09 May, 2015

The rules: Debating


We all know that simply saying, "You're an idiot! Shut up and go away!" is not the most ethical or effective argument but sometimes, it's the quickest and most accurate, so what it lacks in grace, it makes up for in efficiency.

Let's not pretend that the University of Western Australia's cancelling of its involvement with Bjorn Lomborg's so called "consensus centre" (sounds a bit like a "wellness clinic," doesn't it?) was any kind of blow to academic freedom or dissenting voices. On the same day as Minister Pyne's tweet, a loud and influential "dissenting voice" was published in The Australian, even though his premise was something you would more likely expect from David Icke or Alex Jones than from a serious government advisor, so it's not as though dissent is hard to find, or indeed underfunded.

Any university has its reputation and credibility to think of before associating itself with any kind of "contrarian." It would be like expecting a hospital to seriously research the possibility that every smoker it treats might have developed cancer anyway. It would be like NASA housing and funding the flat earth society. Anyone who would make such arguments are not mere dissenters - they are are cranks and do not deserve to have their opinions treated equally. With all the evidence already available, it would be a waste of time and effort to further debate the point with people who have already made it clear that are not swayed by science. They are idiots. They should shut up and go away.

Dissent is not a virtue in and of itself. It's a question of why you're dissenting and if you can back it up. Hell, if you want dissent for its own sake, I'll say that that Moon is a Russian spy satellite, fluoridation causes bunions and Grant Denyer is a Venusian lizard sent to suck out the intestines of all left handed people born on a Thursday. Give ME four million dollars!

It's perhaps also worth noting that as the Leader of the House, it's part of Christopher Pyne's job to silence debate in parliament by moving that the member no longer be heard or that the question be now put. It's well and good to support dissent and debate, but not only when it suits you.

Thinking of Linking

This week I have been mostly reading...

Australia:
Tony Abbott still has axiom to grind

On Scott McIntyre: the greatest insult is to whitewash the fallen 

Taiwanese Golden Farms chicken factory worker discovers underpayment

Budget sweeteners no fix for Abbott’s popularity woes

Federal budget 2015: GST on Netflix and more on the way

Richard Di Natale elected Greens leader following Christine Milne resignation

Was Christine Milne pushed or did she jump?

Nauru detention centre should have an independent monitor, UN inspectors say

How to fix politics in one easy lesson

Budget must move beyond political fetish

Will Hockey really put ‘tough choices’ behind him for sake of survival?

University of Western Australia pulls out of Bjorn Lomborg centre Good!

Why we should share the top job if we care about good leadership

US:
CIA's Ex-No. 2 Says ISIS ‘Learned from Snowden’

Huey P. Long train trestle repairs underway after container accident

Why, 30 years ago, Philadelphia dropped a bomb on itself

UK:
Should We Re-elect the Worst British Government for 75 Years?

The austerity delusion. The case for cuts was a lie. Why does Britain still believe it?

Paul Krugman has got it wrong on austerity
 
Music:
Roger Waters Slams Silicon Valley's 'Rogues and Thieves' 

It's Official! Rowland S Howard Laneway Approved

Media:
The Sun stalks 17yo girl's family

SBS reporter loses job after Facebook post on non-Anglo faces To lose one reporter over an unwritten rule of ideological purity is unfortunate. To lose two...

Tech:
Keeping the lid on NBN discontent

Science:
Russian Spaceship Named Progress to Crash Back to Earth on Friday 

Large Exoplanet and Small Star Pairing Baffles Astronomers

Western Victorian scientists make world-first climate change finding

I got stupid on me and I need to wipe if off on you:
The UN is using climate change as a tool not an issue Government business advisor knows science is wrong and being used by the UN for a new world order. In case this is paywalled, here's the gist:
Climate change a UN-led ruse, says Tony Abbott's business adviser Maurice Newman  Seriously, if Newman were saying that on a street corner instead of in the Australia, he'd be locked up.

The least boring photo on my camera roll:
  





02 May, 2015

Thinking of Linking

This week I have been mostly reading...







UK:



Media:
Reporting from the battlefield: a former correspondent's tale of recovery from PTSD

Broadcaster sacked for anti-ANZAC Day tweets

Tory Maguire appointed Editor-in-Chief of HuffPost Australia

Expecting the unexpected

Bali 9 and the #hash reality about slacktivism

Barrie Cassidy queers the pitch

Music:
Henry Rollins: The Major Labels Are Screwing Up Record Store Day

Literature:
Adrian Mole and me: how this 1980s icon nailed the politics of the era Tom Watson

Society:
We can identify men at risk of committing sex crimes, but will we help them take responsibility? 

Science:
Sexist peer review elicits furious Twitter response, PLOS apology - Seriously??

Tech:
With How Old Do I Look?, Microsoft is harvesting thousands of faces. Uh, isn't that creepy? 

Clickbait of the week:
Every Question In Every Q&A Session Ever

The least boring photo on my camera roll:

 

25 April, 2015

Thinking of Linking

This week I have been mostly reading...

Australia:
Instant Experts

I suppose we must grieve for the lost, but ...

Unfortunately for outraged journalists, the high court was right to rein in Icac

Gallipoli 2015: Remember the brave and timid

'Gallipoli fatigue' causes poor ratings for WWI TV shows as war weary Australians switch off

Abbott government plans to be rid of senate 'ferals'

Hockey and Abbott pay the iron price as Labor circles

University of WA academics demand end to deal with climate change contrarian "Contrarian" sounds so much better than "crank," doesn't it? And on that topic, a "consensus centre," kind of sounds like a "wellness clinic."

Homeless Diggers reveal Australia's double standards 

Anzac Day: Time for Australia to stop fighting other peoples' wars

Has Australia learned nothing from the Gallipoli military disaster?

US:
Two buffalo still loose in Hot Springs - They may not be Buffalo buffalo but these buffalo buffalo.

Oklahoma finally admits it’s got a frackquake problem From the "who'da thunk?" files - why would actually fracturing the earth cause earthquakes?

Most Homeless Women Can’t Get Pads Or Tampons. These Women Want To Change That.

I Am a Cook in the U.S. Senate But I Still Need Food Stamps to Feed My Children

David Petraeus Is Sentenced to Probation in Leak Investigation

World:
Repatriation Blues: Expats Struggle With the Dark Side of Coming Home

Latika Bourke's Indian story

Survivor recounts Mediterranean boat disaster

The wisdom of humane prison design

Gender politics:
Yes, Men Have Problems — But The Men’s Rights Movement Doesn’t Come Close To Dealing With Them

Music:
The Waterboys' Mike Scott Sees the Ghost of Elvis in Modern Blues Quote of the week: "when someone hits you, you know you've been hit,but when someone fucks with your mind you don't know that it's happened, and the victims can blame themselves." 

Media:
Katie Hopkins has just written a piece so hateful that it might give Hitler pause – why was it published? 

Jon Stewart: why I quit The Daily Show 

Will we pay for stories if native ads arrive? 

Assange: How 'The Guardian' Milked Edward Snowden's Story

Rupert Murdoch berated Sun journalists for not doing enough to attack Ed Miliband

The Weekly’s Charlie Pickering: internal fights ended Channel 10 relationship

Literature:
I read books by only minority authors for a year. It showed me just how white our reading world is.

Tech:
50 Years On, Moore’s Law Still Pushes Tech to Double Down 

Why India's Flipkart abandoned its mobile website

Faith:
Could this Dalai Lama be the last?

Why Proof-Texting Is Not Like Other Sins

History:
Extracts from the Endeavour Journal of Joseph Banks (1769)

Model for Norman Rockwell’s ‘Rosie the Riveter’ dies at 92

I got stupid on me and I need to wipe it off on you:
NBN: FTTP not essential for Netflix era, Turnbull argues

Madonna’s Thatcher gaffe is a warning – quote at your peril Madonna ignorant and insensitive? Well, I... probably could have expected that.

Clickbait of the week:
20+ Space-Themed Interior Design Ideas That Bring The Stars Into Your Home

14 money-saving hacks from the 'Man Who Flies For Free' 

The least boring photo on my camera roll: