25 April, 2014

23 April, 2014

Crunching the numbers

For a party that was so good about message discipline in opposition, you’d really think the government would be able to get its story straight on a day to day basis. But after several weeks of the treasurer preparing the country for financial pain because we have a budget crisis or something, today began with the news that we are going to be spending twelve billion dollars on fighter jets. We also know that the budget for the fighters may well blow out and that there is some debate as to whether they’re even any good. Then the day ended with the treasurer warning that Australia has a serious spending problem. The satire writes itself.

In fairness, this purchase has been in the pipeline since the Howard government but there’s no reason why the current government should consider that commitment sacred when they do so for few others.

It goes without saying that $12,000,000,000 is a lot of money but it might be informative to look at this spending in terms of spending the government wants to cut.
12 billion dollars is:
  • 480 SPC assistance packages
  • 602,530 aged pension payments for a year
  • 88 Medicare co-payments for every person in Australia*
  • 16 years of funding for the CSIRO without any budget cuts**
  • 9.8 years of funding for the ABC***
  • 531,396 first class return Qantas flights from Sydney to New York for a spoilt foreign minister

Now I’m not saying that national defence isn’t important too. But if there really is a budget crisis beyond a pretext for an ideological reluctance to help people, it leads one to wonder why such a purchase is a priority in these tough times. Talk of ‘maintaining superiority,’ only makes me wonder over whom and why? 

Still, if our prime minister keeps insulting our neighbours the way he has been recently, perhaps military spending is going to have to take precedence over welfare, health care and research after all.

* Based on 2012 census data.
** I accept that over that time, inflation may require funding to be increased. Adjust that figure accordingly as you see fit.
*** Ditto.

08 March, 2014

A post about floccinaucinihilipilification

There is a certain anti-intellectualism about Australia. There is also a certain anti-intellectualism about politics. When you put the two together, suddenly it seems like anyone who knows how to spell their own name is some out-of-touch elitist who doesn’t understand the everyday concerns of ordinary people like you, who still wonder why the moon follows them around at night. You only have to be smart enough to construct an argument about how being smart doesn’t make you so smart and everything else will follow.

We have quite a history of mocking people who like to use big words.

In 1993, Paul Keating caused quite a stir when he implied the then Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohammad was a recalcitrant. The controversy was party because of the undiplomatic language, and partly because thousands of people had to find out what recalcitrant meant. The word has since been used by both sides of politics without any further comment.

In 2000, Kim Beazley was mocked for describing John Howard’s roads policy as a boondoggle.

And no mention of Kevin Rudd is complete without the phrase “programmatic specificity,” which, among other things, became a major punchline in one of Julie Bishop’s increasingly regular and increasingly cringeworthy comedy routines.

If war is God’s way of teaching Americans geography, perhaps politics is God’s way of expanding Australians’ vocabulary.

Cut to this week, and Malcolm Turnbull talking about “neoconrovianism,” which apparently isn’t a description of Karl Rove’s political philosophy.

Surely by any Australian standards, this is enough to have Mr Turnbull dismissed as a prize wanker.

But wait. Something is different. Where is all the mockery from the media and the opposition? After all, this doublespeak is coming from the same man who claimed in 2009 that had no idea what programmatic specificity meant, even though the meaning should be clear to a Rhodes Scholar.

What changed? Why is this different?

We report, you decide…

03 March, 2014

Setting a good example

Do you remember when you were at school? Do you remember when you got to be one of the big kids? Were you told that as one of the big kids, you were expected to set an example for the littler kids? Were you told it was because the younger kids looked up to the older kids and took behavioural cues from them? Well, it probably wasn’t put like that, but I’m fairly sure that was the message that was given. If you behave badly, others will copy you. I’m fairly sure all of us were given this kind of lecture in one context or another as we were growing up.

Which brings us to this:


The headline is misleading. It’s not Obama whose influence is limited but the United States. It’s not President Obama specifically but the US government as a whole that has lost the moral authority to lecture anyone about invading sovereign nations for dubious reasons.

Now why do you think that might be?

Much as people on both sides of American politics would like to pretend the slate was wiped clean on January 20th, 2009, it was not. Every leader has to lie in bed that previous administrations made for them.

Now I’m not saying it’s the Bush administration’s fault that Vladimir Putin seems to want to annex part, if not all of the Ukraine, but it is their fault that the world laughs at John Kerry when he says, “You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on a completely trumped-up pretext.” There’s no point in arguing that Kerry said similar things about the Iraq war. Nobody cares, especially not anyone who would like to point to America’s own foreign excursions this century in order to justify their own operations, or at least negate America’s valid arguments against them. The example has been set, and by the self-styled leader of the free world, no less.

More than ten years ago, when I would argue the case against the Iraq war on forums, I was frequently told I was on the wrong side of history. I wanted them to be right, but they weren’t. “Bush is a chess player,” they would tell me as things began to go wrong. “He’s playing the long game, thinking three moves ahead.” No, seriously, people said this to me. I would kind of like to hear from them again. I doubt I will though.

24 February, 2014

The Rules: Courage

I wrote last year about how to spot an adult: They're the ones who don't feel the need to brag that they're an adult.

Now, nearly six months into the job, Tony Abbott's next great claim is that his immigration minister is not a wimp. Really, Tony? After what can only be described as an utter balls-up, is that all you've got? Australians don't want a wimp?

To quote the classics, It's so easy to laugh, it's so easy to hate; It takes guts to be gentle and kind. Strength is self-evident. If you have to boast about it, then you ain't got it.

Show me someone who brags about being grown up and I'll show you a petulant child.

Show me a grown man in a position of great power who still feels the need to prove he's not a wimp, and I'll show you a pathetic little WIMP.

You protest too much, Tony. And so do all the gang behind you.

By the way, one Catholic to another, Jesus was a "wimp."

20 February, 2014

Blood and Chocolate

The government has painted itself into a corner with its double standards on corporate assistance.

I tell you why at AusOpinion.

16 February, 2014

The eternal sunshine of Christopher Pyne

What a difference an election makes! Suddenly the Coalition thinks that a shrill and obstructionist opposition is a bad thing. And no-one is more upset about it than that master of hypocrisy, Christopher Pyne. At a doorstop press conference last Thursday, he revealed that he had suddenly become aware of there being a difference between holding government to account and being ill-mannered.

He also said,
"I don’t think anybody ever accused me of rudeness."
The only way anyone could possibly think that Christopher Pyne was never accused of rudeness would be to not think at all.  But just in case Mr Pyne really was living in a bubble until this week, let me make it perfectly clear:

Christopher Pyne, I accuse you of rudeness.

He went on to say,
"I don’t think I was ever ill-mannered and rude,"
which can only leave one with the impression that he really hasn't quite got the hang of this "thinking" lark.

I know better than to ask Mr Pyne if he doesn't think behaviour like this is rude:
Christopher Pyne being not rude
The question I really want to ask, was best asked by Jon Stewart: