Monday, August 31, 2015

Ideological Divides IV – Biology

This is the fourth instalment of the Ideological Divides series; click here to read the first instalment, here to read the second, and here to read the third.

Our biology as a shaping influence of political beliefs and behaviours might seem incongruous, and it is not something that has been contemplated for long. In the past, social forces, childhood environment/s and parental influence were considered primary reasons of whether we became liberal (progressive, left) or conservative. Nor it seems are our beliefs merely the result of rational responses to the world at large as a new body of evidence suggests there is more at play. While researchers have successfully found biological links to personality, mental disorders, alcoholism and even diabetes to name a few, political science as a field seemed too detached.

The connection began in 1986 with a study suggesting that genes affected our attitudes toward topics such as immigration, abortion and war. Using classical behavioural-genetics techniques, Nicholas Martin a geneticist at Queensland’s Institute of Medical Research used twins to show that genes made a significant difference in shaping social attitudes. Fast forward to early 2000’s and Martins work was re-analysed again using twins, this time in the U.S. by Hibbing and Alford of Rice University in Texas. In 2005, their findings were published and again demonstrating significant correlations to the 1986 studies. Others in the U.S. became interested with more studies at the University of California and Pennsylvania State University using twins from many other western nations confirming the findings.

The studies were never deemed definitive and critics are plenty, including Jeremy Freese of North-western University in Illinois, commenting that the studies show, “implausibly large” impacts from individual genes, adding that the research was published in political science journals rather than scientific journals therefore any likely deficiencies of the findings might have escaped proper scientific scrutiny.

The bottom line is that it may be too early or premature to outline conclusive arguments on the genetics of politics in the absence of further research however; personality does have a connection and a biological basis. Openness to change is the first of five (5) core traits that a person possesses in the Five Factor model of personality, the others being, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism. Many political psychologists agree that openness to change is more prevalent amongst members of the left or progressives who are more accepting of social change, they can tolerate more ambiguity and uncertainty than conservatives whom are more conscientious and attracted to order. Little wonder that members of the left are more likely to embrace changing the marriage act (same-sex marriage), favour immigration while conservatives focus on border protection, national security and a strong military.

I feel certain that future research will find evidence of a biological basis in politics and ideology but we may be decades away from a conclusive account detailing all factors in addition to, and including biology that determines our political thinking. In the interim, it pays to appreciate the complexity of the human being, to be civil and accepting of others views when engaging in any political debate about the issues because if anything, research is suggesting that our differences have an innate origin which ensures that we all experience the world and life differently.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

The origin of Left, Centre, Right

The terms derive their origin from France, the French king Louis XVI (23 August 1754 – 21 January 1793) also known as Louis Capet, created a parliament (parler is the French word for, “to talk”).

Representatives from the peasantry and the aristocracy were present and elected to discuss the state's affairs. The peasantry sat to the left of the presiding officer and the aristocracy to the right - simple.

Louis XVI was King of France from 1774 until his deposition in 1792.

Image of the week - I

Via The Australian 
First word or thought that comes to mind?
For mine: TA you're energising your critics, not a good look at this point in time ...
All comments welcomed ...

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

ADS - Abbott Derangement Syndrome

Remember that tweet from journalist and the ABC's Insiders program regular, George Megalogenis, the one that sent twitter into a storm in May? For mine, it presents as a clear and definitive example of Abbott Derangement Syndrome.
It appears that members of the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (the union and professional organisation that covers everyone in the media, entertainment, sports and arts industries) are the social group most susceptible to the condition. As borrowed from another victim from across the briny seas, I offer a hybrid definition and explanation of the condition: 
Abbott Derangement Syndrome (or ADS) is a loss of the capability for rational thought. This loss is often displayed over a period of hours, days or even months and years. Akin to an onset of paranoia in otherwise normal folk to the policies, the Prime Ministership and very existence of Tony Abbott. The sufferer, in all cases, blames Tony Abbott for just about anything that makes for news on the ABC or Fairfax sites and press, including but not limited to, all types of disasters, human and social maladies. Examples include, blaming Tony Abbott for controlling the minds of sportsmen like Adam Goodes and the spectators, believing that Tony Abbott is responsible for the rise of ISIS, The Lindt cafe seige and cyclone Yasi in 2011 - acute sufferers have even concluded a link to cyclone Mahina in 1899...ADS is also manifested in many sufferers by a determination to label Tony Abbott as the greatest single threat to Australia since John Howard. He is oft linked to the likes of George Pell, Rupert Murdoch and Margaret Thatcher ..  
For those of you happy to live with the condition and, perhaps as a way to further an agenda, I have devised a parody of one line news commentaries as fodder for bringing you together and energise your cause.

  • Tony Abbott urges pensioners to get back to work citing budget debt and deficit 
  • Tony Abbott calls on Australians to forget the human cost of detention centres and war
  • A spiritual faith group reports that Tony Abbott was “chosen by God” to lead Australia
  • Tony Abbott proposes lifting the retirement age to 84
  • Tony Abbott suggests that Australian society would be best served through the embracement of biblical marriages not same sex marriage
  • Tony Abbott overheard joking about climate change, children in detention, boat people, Indonesia, the absence of WMD’s in Iraq, gays and Guantanamo Bay torture techniques
  • Tony Abbott shortlists Dick Cheney to act as a foreign advisor for Operation Sovereign Borders
  • Tony Abbott hints at the ADF being the military wing of the LNP
  • Tony Abbott names the site of Australia’s first nuclear power station
  • Tony Abbott launches his new book, ‘THE NEW ANGLOSPHERE CENTURY”
  • Tony Abbott overheard saying, “where are the carriers” upon being questioned about China’s island building in South China sea
  • Tony Abbott reportedly sought Israel’s Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu's advice for taming the influence of the progressive left
  • Tony Abbott suggests that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was wrong to award Cate Blanchett the Oscar for Best Actress in 2014
  • Tony Abbott says he enjoyed American Sniper almost as much as he enjoyed Ben Hur
  • Tony Abbott says that the new human right is property rights
  • The CSIRO and SBS ought be privatised say Tony Abbott
  • Abbott Abbott Abbott

On a good note, George Megalogenis may, at last, have found a relationship between football crowds and Prime Ministers, a connection that has previously eluded psychologists, sociologists, anthropologists and historians alike ...

But the good news is that there is hope for sufferers with new treatment options now coming online:
  • For mild cases, Aspro Clear taken morning and night has proved beneficial.
  • For moderate cases, Dispirin or Bex taken at bedtime has yielded positive results and 
  • For acute sufferers, all of the above, with the addition of one (1) Alka Seltzer when the paranoia first presents
  • Long time sufferers have also reported an improvement in their condition following the act of contrition (confession) and acceptance of Holy Communion at their local Catholic parishes...
If you are thinking of accusing me of failing to stay true to this blog's goal of providing, "intelligent and informed political discourse", I beg forgiveness however, I have added a new label specific to this post, humour ...  

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Ideological Divides III – Morals and Personality

This is the third instalment of the Ideological Divides series; click here to read the first instalment and here to read the second …

If we take a look at the different moral values of those of the left Vs the right, it ought to be no surprise that we often face deadlock over not merely politics per-se but economic policy measures resulting from them. Consider the statements below:

  • Of all virtues, compassion is the most significant
  • If we allow the lazy and/or unsuccessful to fail and suffer the consequences of their poor decisions and inactions, tough love will compel corrective action.

Leftists obviously endorse the compassion statement but it may surprise that so do conservatives, the real difference is a matter of degree as the latter endorse both statements equally though more mildly.

The term Karma is normally associated with spirituality and a key concept in Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Taoism and yet, however inadvertently, it plays a role in the psychology of the archetypal conservative in terms of ones reaping the fruits (good and bad) of their actions. It is worth noting that karma is not a law of the universe or physical world, though traditionalists, aka the conservative classes, sometimes come off sounding as if they believe it is - such is their conviction.

This explains why they are lukewarm about assisting the unsuccessful - not to be confused with the less fortunate – via the welfare state, or unsuccessful nations (Greece) via loans, and companies via industry assistance and/or outright bailouts.

Political behaviour is strongly motivated by people's underlying psychological needs and through this deep motivator’s determine one's political preferences.  A University of Toronto study concluded that:
“… While everybody has the same motivational architecture, the relative strength of the underlying systems varies from one person to the next. If concerns for order and equality are relatively balanced, the individual is likely to be politically moderate or restrained, as either grows stronger than the other, political preferences move further to either left or right of the spectrum…”
The study also links values to biological and genetic heritage factors.
“This means you have to take a deeper view of political and morality in terms of where these motives are coming from as political preferences do not emerge from a simple rational consideration of the issues”
I believe that a basic understanding of why we differ can benefit the arbitrations of our parliaments and society in general through greater empathy.  

As I concluded in the first instalment of this series, all ideological divides assist a nation to flourish and the abovementioned study suggests this to be true.
“There are costs and benefits to each political profile and both appear critical to maintaining an effective balance in society”  
In the next instalment of this series, I will look deeper into how biology can exert an influence on political beliefs and behaviours ahead of the last posting that will ask the most pertinent of questions, progressives, leftists (Liberals) or Conservatives - who is right, what is truth?

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Ideological Divides II – Personality and Values

This post serves as an extension of my June 11, 2015 post, ideological divides.

These days we can make somewhat precise predictions about people's values in relation to politics through various unconnected things such as how they dress, where they live, the cars they own, how much orderliness there is in their lives and even, music and book preferences. Given that, our two main parties have well entrenched publically espoused values – through party platforms – they make for good targets for whatever political personality types.

Interestingly, our political parties have shaped their own values that in turn, influence peoples lifestyle elements by creating diverging facts resulting in different beliefs about history (stolen generation real or not?), science and notably economics. How you ask? By way of example, the previous Labor government’s school curriculum over- emphasises the themes, Environment, Colonialism, Social history, Anti-modernism, Class and Minority groups and Multiculturalism while under-emphasising, Religion, Western Civilisation, Political History, and Economic growth and Technology.  We also have no mention of the three pillars of Western Civilisation, instead replaced by what conservatives would refer to as, the three pillars of political correctness, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures, Asia and Australia’s engagement with Asia and Sustainability. Moreover, on the question of economic growth and technology one would think that the entrepreneurial spirit of the era would warrant a mention in the curriculum, but the word “entrepreneur” appears nowhere more exactly, when the curriculum refers to wealth it only refers to the distribution of wealth, never the creation of wealth.

Let us now look at the interpretation of economics in terms of beliefs and values as associated with ideology. A centre-right Liberal party supporter or politician would have very different views to an ALP or Greens advocate about some contemporary economic issues of the day. Will abolishing the minimum wage increase unemployment or decrease it? Will it stimulate the economy or depress it? How is it best to deal with economic recessions, via stimulus or austerity? What about tightening the eligibility criteria or completely cutting unemployment benefits (dole), will it propel individuals to find employment or set them up for the scrap heap?

Given the differing personality types and personal values of LNP, ALP and Greens supporters it is nigh impossible to obtain an accurate and impartial answer to questions about ideological righteousness associated with economic policies since all participants are both consciously and unconsciously seeking arguments answers and facts, that are consistent with their personal values. Individuals begin their personal deliberations about what is right/wrong or true and then seek out supporting evidence that in all cases is available. Hence, one can always find documented academic (even peer reviewed) documentation and opinion pieces arguing that removing the minimum wage will spur economic activity and increase employment just as one can find same for the opposing argument.

Asking what is truth or who is right becomes almost superfluous but not entirely so, for we should never stop asking … questioning. In terms of politics and ideology, human values, knowledge, convictions and even creeds are relative, elastic and ever so fluid …

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Ideological Divides

Something struck me about the following lines that were on a flyer that landed in my letterbox some time ago:
“As a long standing member of the ALP, I appreciate the role councils play in providing quality services to the community”
One could also envision the words, “The Greens” in place of ALP, but could you envision LNP in place of ALP, I dare say no. The innocuous lines imply that only the ALP establishment, in addition to others to the left of it, and their members and representatives can recognise, appreciate and deliver quality services to the community- the latter being an integral word in the language and semantics of the left.

This conception is akin to an unwritten attribute of the progressive classes. Nonetheless, it belies the truth about the importance placed on community care by their ideological opposites. Fact is, those on the right also place importance on "community" they, like progressives and those of the left, have entirely similar moral foundations and act on their passions with the same vigour and conviction of righteousness however, they have different moral philosophies - defending, and recommending their concept/s of right and wrong conduct.

As a result of factors associated with the disciplines of Anthropology, Psychology and related cultural factors, individuals that engage in the political, either as active or passive participants, formulate passions from which they hypothesis, derive and construct partisan suppositions.

Accordingly, our (people's) political divides result in wide gaps of opinion about political parties, there policies and, party leaders alike.

However, what of the legitimacy of each, who is right, who is wrong?

As an appendage to the question I, being an active right leaning participant have come to accept as true, that the insights of all sides, the left and right, otherwise said, Liberals Conservatives, Progressives and even Libertarians, play a role for a nation to flourish. Not that this answers the legitimacy question I posed.

Once again, who is right, what is your view?

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

You're no idiot, rather you're un-engaged ...

Did you know? The ancient Greeks had a word for a person not interested, or un-engaged in public affairs eg. Politics - Idiot...

As an adjunct, I'm of the opinion that the Greeks were harsh to label the un-engaged (in politics) as idiots. They are not idiots per-se, they are simply un-engaged, nothing more nothing less.

What dismays me however, is when I inadvertently stumble upon conversations with "unengaged" types (those that absorb only media headlines without questioning) and they espouse an understanding of whatever the political discourse, with arguments littered with inaccuracies and untruths.

Still, even then they are NOT idiots, rather they are once again, unengaged. The role of those like myself (the engaged) is to enhance understanding without bias or judgement.

I have no issue with those that disagree as long as there difference is based on accurate information. Sadly, the unengaged are most often victims of groupthink. They fail to question, "headlines". 

This is the challenge for the "engaged".

My advice to all, whatever they're existing convictions is to question... Never stop questioning....

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Accepting Political Differences

Today I was accused of being critical and judgemental of those whose ideology and politics are different to mine. The conversation was born of my previous post on this blog, ADS - Abbott Derangement Syndrome with the accuser lecturing me about my, “criticism” of George Megalogenis. Criticism I thought, really.

I can understand why I was lectured however my post was not meant to be critical of him of even those whom I may think suffer from the so-called syndrome I wrote about.

We are all different and sometimes it is our very differences that make the world we know, turn, for better or worse.

In my years, I have had many conversations with people from all walks about politics. In earlier days I was stubborn adopting an, I am right you are wrong approach. These days I actually listen to those who disagree in a genuine attempt to understand why they believe as they do. In dealing with people from all lifestyles and I have come to recognize that what affects how they think and where they stand on issues including politics, life and just as importantly, how I think, has much to do with particularized and individualistic life events, worldview, beliefs and emotions, measure of knowledge, cultural factors and background  and, so very much more …

In dealing with those who are my political opposites, I remind myself to let go of ego related emotions. This does not mean I acquiesce with ease, on the contrary, if I feel I must extend understanding, I attempt to achieve this while extending respect and utilizing diffusing language like.

  • “I appreciate what you are saying, how can we address this and gain both from the discussion, have you considered” 
  • “Were you aware that…”
  • “I don’t mean to lecture or suggest I am right, let me explain what I mean ..." 
  • “Do you think it would be better if …?”

By all means be authoritative, know your subject, provide quantifiable facts, but remember to listen, really listen! Active as opposed to passive listening is key to a successful exchange. Listening allows you to get inside the other person and I assure you, it is always appreciated, and while you may still come away with differences, all parties will be better for the exchange … Try it and watch what happens ...

This post may come across as a cop out of sorts, it is far from that. George Megalogenis has his own opinion/s and he promoted but one in his tweet last Saturday, nothing wrong with that. I feel certain that I would enjoy a discussion with him about why he feels the way he does on the matter he tweeted about and who knows, we might both come away having learned something.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Social Capital and Politics

Kevin Rudd, the Prime Minister you either loved or loathed, even today this remains the case. By chance, I recently came across the image you see as part of this post and, as I looked at it more closely, I was drawn to the elastic concept that is, social capital.

There are many definitions of this notion however, in the context of this post I am drawn to that offered by Bourdieu and Wacquant (1992) defining it as, “ the sum of the resources, actual or virtual, that accrue to an individual … by virtue of possessing a durable network of  … relationships of mutual acquaintance and recognition”. I would add to this, social capital as a producer of civic engagement, a character conducive to consensus building and, elements of trust acting to enhance the formation of individual and organisational bonds.

When an individual enters public life, he/she brings with them a degree of social capital that has accrued through the quantity and quality of both public and personal interactions to date. Accordingly, it is not merely a case of, you have it or, you have not as continued engagement through the myriad of mediums available, (notably social media now becoming the new conversation challenging traditional ideas about marketing and brand management), allows one to build upon the capital throughout their unfolding career.

With this in mind and, in conjunction with the aforementioned definition, it is clear that Kevin Rudd had a healthy measure of social capital; the image alone tells us so. He was completely at ease in environs such as schools, hospitals, and crowds alike. Contrast this to a select few politicians of the day. With polls telling us that both Tony Abbott and Bill Shorten are not popular with voters it is reasonable to suggest that both lack the capital I refer to. So how do some other, notable federal politicians of the day measure up? Julie Bishop and Malcolm Turnbull have a high measure, those that have an average measure could include, Sussan Ley, Tanya Plibersek, Penny Wong, Chris Bowen, Joe Hockey (some would disagree), Barnaby Joyce and Bruce Billson. Those that lack it altogether could include, Christopher Pyne, Eric Abetz, and Scott Morrison (watch this space). I write, “Could” as this is only my opinion.

I am not implying that we view social capital as the definitive measure pertaining to success or otherwise in politics as from time to time, decisions made in the national interest must outweigh the quest for it. This is where Kevin Rudd abused it and failed, some would add, due to ego. Recall his quip, “My name is Kevin Rudd, I’m from Queensland, I’m here to help”, his outlandish use of semantics and colloquialisms and ideological flip-flopping – a Social Democrat in 2009, an Economic and Fiscal conservative in 2007 and Christian Socialist in 2006. He would try anything to win the hearts and minds of the urban crowd and for a while, it worked. Personally, I saw it a way of exploiting the zeitgeist and in time it caught up with him…

Does it take a special talent to cultivate a good measure of social capital? Is it innate? Can a politician farm it without undermining the national interest, in particular, economic interests of the nation? I believe it does take a special talent - a natural ability and aptitude to steer away from the need to engage in morally rich, idealistic political manoeuvrings without compromising one's popularity and through this, social capital.

What do you think?

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

On matters RET

The two main parties have been squabbling over the Renewable Energy Target for what seems like forever but recently an agreement was in fact, reached.

After many months of genuine political argy bargy, the Abbott Government and Labor have finally reached an agreement that will pass the lower house and, with any luck the senate will do same.

The target is 33,000 gigawatt hours GWh equivalent to 21-22%. The Greens will argue that this is not enough to reduce CO2 emissions and protect jobs and investment however, they ought to concede, it is better than no pact at all. More pointedly, at around 21-22%, it is higher than the previous 20% figure and puts it amongst the highest in the world. Fact is, given The Greens once pushed for a target of 90% thus it's fair to suggest, they will never be pleased.

The clean energy sector now has some certainty and given the impassioned nature of the issue they to, ought to be pleased.

Personally, I believe it took more of an effort for the Abbott Government to settle on any target than the effort put in by the opposition Labor party to protect it since at the core, the Liberal party, as an establishment, is philosophically indifferent on the matter.

What is your view on this, and the RET in general? A superfluous exercise in terms of climate change or an vital element of the development of clean energy technologies including bioenergy, cogeneration, geothermal, hydro, solar, , marine energy and wind …

Further reading:

Clean Energy Council

Renewable energy sector welcomes bipartisan RET deal

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Unleashing the ALP

The following lines may provide more than a clue on how the ALP could dramatically improve its electoral stocks.

Does the party govern for the people or the unions? Hardly a superfluous question, more accurately, a perfectly legitimate query in light of some arresting facts as explained by Patrick Hannaford.
  • The party’s national platform contains over a 160 references to unions.
  • In the ALP national executive, over 70% of the 26 members are current or former union officials.
  • In parliament, over 40% of lower house MP’s and over 70% of ALP senators were former employees of the union movement.
This is startling considering that the number of workers in Australia who are trade union members in relation to their main job, is fewer than 20% of the workforce down from around 41% in 1990.

Moreover, only 12% of our nation's voting age population consist of trade union members.

Consider too, that over 50% of federal ALP parliamentarians were formerly part of union officialdom.

We now know how unions have managed to increase their clout in spite of falling union membership numbers and it's no surprise that Queensland’s Palaszczuk Government has recently provided union’s access to Government resources Inc. office space computers and phones. Nor any surprise that there is a perception that Victoria's Daniel Andrews is paying off the unions that actively campaigned for his election.

In light of how indebted Labor Governments are to unions (given the hefty sums of money provided for election campaigns), it is entirely reasonable to suggest that unions have become a franchise of Labor Governments.

This raises a further question, how much more effective and successful would the Australian Labor Party be, if it chose to be more representative and governed for the people? 

The first thing it ought to consider is to limit its bonds with the union movement, Bill Shorten should take the lead in this matter.  


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Same Sex Marriage will soon pass Parliament

An article appearing in The Age recently confirms what has been suspected for some time. Only a handful of parliamentary votes now stand in the way of the reform, so it is not a matter of if, but when. The AMA says that several Labor MP’s have switched their position, now declaring support for same sex marriage as have, up to 13 unnamed Liberal and National party MP’s. As for Tony Abbott, neither he nor his party supports gay marriage and the ALP also remains opposed however, Mr Abbott has said all along, that the issue of a free vote would be a matter for the post-election party room. I recently heard one prominent gay crusader say on national radio that it is more likely that a second term Abbott Government would sooner legislate for same sex marriage than the Labor party would.
I have no issue with gays or same sex unions, I wish to shout that, but I remain opposed to same sex marriage, as I firmly believe that the “slippery slope” argument as it is known, (the one that social "reformers" and pro-gay activists are quick to scoff at) is compelling.

The argument suggests that when you remove the traditional idea of a marriage being between a man and a woman, in favour of a union between any two consenting adults, you invite more changes down the track and the main one that comes to mind is, Polygamy in all its three forms. Polygyny, wherein a man has multiple simultaneous wives, Polyandry, wherein a woman has multiple simultaneous husbands, or group marriage, wherein the family unit consists of multiple husbands and multiple wives. In other societies the precedents already exist as they do within the framework of Islam.

Moreover, it seems some are already using the slippery slope argument in protecting rights of Polygamists. We read recent reports of a prominent Green party official claiming that Sarah Hanson Young’s resolve that marriage between two consenting adults including gays (the key point), discriminates against others in gay community including Polyamorists. Only this month, the Greens Party leader in the U.K. Natalie Bennett said she is, 'open to discussing' three-way marriages and polygamy. Read it here

The path to same sex marriage on the premise that, any two consenting adults regardless of sex ought to be able to marry if they love one another is fine, but once the traditional marriage definition becomes undefined or vague, you invite more change hence, – the slippery slope. If homosexuals can marry, why can’t a man marry two or more woman if they love one another and all consent to it? A simple web search will reveal that courts around the globe are already dealing with this very issue.

I dismiss all other arguments against same sex marriage acknowledging that the world has changed. Furthermore, the religious approach will not wash in a society as ours, one that values the upholding of separation between church and state.

Same sex marriage will soon be legal, however let us not complain when the next logical step makes its mark on the social conscious, Polygamy in all its forms, for this too will be inevitable. In addition, if Polygamy does make inroads in western societies, women will suffer the most for it. You may wish to do some web research on that as well.

All the above amount to what is merely an opinion, and same sex activists can like me, point toward much web research suggesting that the slippery slope argument is fallacious. I would add, fair enough, though recall I wrote, “compelling” in my cause for concern in the third paragraph, I deliberately avoided absolute descriptors about the slippery slope case, thus permit me to repeat, a ‘compelling’ argument that demands parliamentary and community debate ahead of any reform.  Perhaps then, any new legislation permitting same sex marriage may incorporate, as far as is possible, built in safeguards - strict definitions- to restrict the path to expanded marital unions.

I am not holding my breath, nor should you.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Stereotypical discrimination alive and well in political preselection processes...

Via The Age, the articles heading reads: Labor candidate for Melbourne admits 'I look like a Green'….
Is there something wrong here?
In an era where we claim to strive toward equal opportunity you would think that everyone is treated in ways irrespective of anything but their ability or capacity to undertake a role and not, according to their race, religion, sex, color, age, cultural background, appearance, marriage or civil partnership arrangements, national origin or physical attributes.
The piece continues:
"She's a former migrant, a human rights and employment lawyer, and she's gay. On paper, the new candidate for Melbourne sounds like a Green out of central casting. But Sophie Ismail is central to Labor's plans to wrestle its erstwhile federal seat back from Adam Bandt.
And the fact she makes Bandt, the sitting Greens MP, look like a white, middle-class male has not been lost on senior Labor Party figures – nor Ms Ismail herself.
"Adam Bandt looks like a Labor candidate and I look like a Greens candidate," she said."
That the author claims that Labor views Adam Bandt’s middle class casting and general looks, as a weakness, and the Labor’s candidates sexual orientation, appearance - that in this case would include hairstyle and fashion sense - is a plus, suggests that there may be an element of discrimination associated with stereotypes at play.

Furthermore, note they have mentioned race by using the term "white". It is tantamount to forms of workplace discrimination.

I feel certain that there must have been others striving for ALP preselection for the seat of Melbourne, if so, then it’s plausible to assume that they may have been discriminated against.

What can we draw from the article?

If you're seeking preselection and haven't got the sexual orientation, cultural background, appearance, marriage or civil partnership arrangement and physical attributes pertinent to the seat, you need not apply. 

Follow the link above to view the article, or click here ...

Feel free to comment ... 

Are you a writer, a budding novelist and admire the writings of Ayn Rand?

Pardon my going off topic on this post.

Can you espouse the ideas of, but not be definitively limited to, those of the late novelist?

In 2009 I completed Ch. 1 of what was to be an extended piece or novel entitled "David Larkin". Due to time constraints and life matters Ch 2. was not commenced. The writing remains online within this blog and is copyright however, I am willing to waive my rights for anyone that wishes to continue to build upon the 4100+ words already written and call it their own but with the following with the following caveats.
  1. That the aspirant adopt, as far as is reasonably practicable, a similar style/prose to mine. 
  2. That the writing benchmark set, be correspondingly upheld and/or commensurate with the existing work and
  3. That if you are fortunate and derive any income/revenue from the exercise then you can look forward to keeping 90% or more for yourself, otherwise said, a small sum for yours truly. 
It was my intention that the piece espouse the ideas of, but not be definitively limited to, those of the late novelist Ayn Rand.

Click here to view the work thus far ...

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Waleed Aly and Tony Abbott

Waleed Aly is a popular and respected Fairfax journalist, he won the 2014 Walkley award for best columnist, he lectures in politics at Monash University and co-hosts the Ten Network’s news and current affairs program, The Project amongst other things - a grand stage on which to advocate his brand of worldview. He is a very smart young man with a promising future.

I usually look out for his comment pieces in The Age and in doing so; have noticed that he appears fixated with a singular political topic – Tony Abbott and the Abbott Government. This is not to suggest that he only writes about Tony Abbott but even when he does not, Waleed often points to, or at the very least alludes to, directing blame for whatever subject matter, to Tony Abbott or his Government.

Even as I write now, Waleed Aly’s latest Op-ed dated May 14, commands considerable attention over at Fairfax sites. It’s titled, Watch out – This is a booby-trapped budget. I need not go into the details of what it is about, one can guess from the heading and sub-headings within the article. The highlights include:
“Abbott is apparently ruling out everything that's called a tax. That can only mean one thing, assuming the government still cares about the budget at all: more cuts. Lots of them. Serious cuts.”
On the face of it, Waleed Aly is of the progressive left intelligentsia, one who actively pursues moral relativisms and postmodernist principles akin to new age thinking as characterised by a rejection of absolute truths and grand narratives to explain the evolution of society. Some would add, a member of the chattering classes. I am not inclined to ascribe this term upon him as it's disparaging, though I think that if nothing else, he is great fodder for them.

Nothing I have written in the preceding paragraph is intended to be critical or derogatory of Waleed, I am merely attempting to convey an understanding of why he is, so often disapproving of the Abbott government and its policies – it is ideological and Tony Abbott and his Government is perhaps the polar opposite of what Waleed stands for politically.

In terms of religion and if the write-ups are correct, Waleed identifies as a Sunni Muslim which, when considered in conjunction with his ideology, in part explains why he is oft referred to as Australia’s most prominent or influential, apologist for Muslim extremism.

Personally, as someone who believes in the modernist concept of a ‘true self’, that we humans have a central 'true self', a fixed, unified, essential self that remains intact throughout our lives, I would not be as, “apologist”. How does this relate to radical or potentially radical Muslims within our social order? We can never discount the possibility that radical Muslims or simply those susceptible to elements of such (the young), will remain a threat to our way of life, not merely those from abroad but unfortunately and most alarmingly, the homegrown variety.

Returning to politics, being a lecturer in politics, I would expect that, just occasionally Waleed would write a piece other than the usual theme centred on the Abbott Government. There is after all, so much more to the topic, interesting characters like Jackie Lambie, Clive Palmer, Ricky Muir and the state and mindset of the current Senate. There are also other parties, the ALP, the Greens, and Socialist Alliance, and so many elements of our political system, like federalism, the judiciary, the legislature, the constitution, thinks tanks, interest and lobby groups, social movements, pressure groups, the role of media, I could go on. However, alas, it is all about Tony Abbott. Little wonder the conservative commentariat generates Twitter hashtags like #Waleedlogic and propagandizes them to the point of, “trending”.

For example, why didn't Waleed consider an analysis of the Oppositions budget reply today as a substitute to the hackneyed offerings associated with the Abbott Government?


Click here for an extensive list of Waleed Aly’s articles

Friday, May 15, 2015

How Bill Shorten could have replied to Neil Mitchell

Wayne Swan or Kevin Rudd would have nipped the question on their first attempt. I refer to Neil Mitchell's question to Bill Shorten on Melbourne's 3AW the morning post budget 2015. No less than 13 times he asked Mr Shorten if he accepted responsibility for the problems with the deficit in his role as Labor Leader, on no less than 13 times he evaded before finally answering no!

3AW listeners appeared to agree. Caller Jo said she was sick of yelling at her radio and urged Mr Shorten to, "just answer the frigging question."

I have crafted a short paragraph indicative of how Bill Shorten could have replied to Neil Mitchell:
I think you’re missing a fundamental point Neil, what Australians will remember is that the previous Government shielded families, economic sectors and entire industries from the effects of what was the greatest challenge the modern economy and indeed, Australian economy has faced. I refer of course to the Global Financial Crisis, and it's on this basis that I'd be happy to take responsibility for any deficit you may be referring to...
If the Opposition leader’s response was even remotely close to the above, the dynamics of the interview would have been entirely different. As it was, the interview was a train wreck.

I am not suggesting that Abbott has not had his share of poor interviews however, you really had to hear this one to believe it, and I'm in no doubt that even laborites would have been seething.

On the question of the previous Government's spending in order to shield us from the GFC, I would add, considerably less could have been spent to save us, but that could be the subject of another post. Hence, do not misinterpret the intent of this post. This is not a spruik for, or on behalf of the ALP, rather, I point out Bill Shorten 's effectiveness or lack thereof, as Opposition leader, engaging in tough media interviews, for they will not get easier in the run up to the next Federal Election.


Related links:

From The Age: Bill Shorten evades questions from Neil Mitchell on Labor deficit 13 times

From the Herald Sun: St Peter denied three times. Bill Shorten 13

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Impact of Iron Ore Price Movements

Impact of Iron Ore Price Movements

In defence of Abbott Gov't in relation to its quest to reduce budget deficit.

It's been bandied around that for each $1.00 drop in the value of the price of iron ore per tonne, Australia loses $800 million in export revenue? The price per tonne when Abbott won Gov't was $1.39 this morning iron ore was $US62.58 a tonne. 

During the Rudd-Gillard years it got as high as $1.86 and averaged around $1.60 between 2010 and 2012. 

If the drop in price isn't bad enough for the budget, the problem is further exacerbated because the Chinese economy, although still strong, is not in double digit territory as it was during the previous Government's reign......

Is it fair to suggest that the previous Government was fortunate as not only did they inherit a strong budgetary position (think debt and deficit) from the Howard Government but also, in terms of iron ore, enjoyed terms of trade that the Abbott Gov't can only dream of?


Update: 15/05/2015 - Some good news this past month ... 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Budget 2015

I will have more to say about the budget at a later date however briefly for now ...
Budget 2015 is politically smarter and fairer but we are still spending nearly $100 million a day more than we are earning according to one report.
Broadly speaking, unlike 2014, one that appeared to be a product of the hard right, this budget aims for the centre and elections are won from the middle.
It is more pragmatic, less ideological and will probably save the Abbott Government or at least they are hoping, but from the perspective of economic management, last night’s budget was average at best - fiscal purists will be disappointed as politics first, economic policy second ...

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Age Pension and Super

From the newsletter of international best selling author, finance and investment expert, radio broadcaster, newspaper columnist and public speaker – Noel Whittaker.
Australia has one of the most generous superannuation systems on the planet; there is just one problem – it’s unsustainable. Under the current rules, a couple can have up to $1,151,500 of assets, plus a family home of unlimited value, before losing access to at least a part pension. The cut-off point for the income test is $74,818 a year. 
The Coalition tried to reduce age pension expenditure by tying increases to the cost of living instead of average weekly earnings. For some reason, which I still can’t understand, this was attacked on all sides and the proposal has been abandoned, at least for the time being. They have now announced they are changing the taper rate – that is the rate at which pension decreases as assets or income rise. But changing the taper rate is fraught with difficulties. If you make the taper too steep, pensioners are placed in the invidious position that it’s not worth earning extra income because of the effect on the pension. If you make it too shallow, as it is now, you push out eligibility so far that even a person earning $74,000 a year is eligible for a part pension. 
Currently, under the income test, every additional dollar earned above the threshold causes a reduction of $0.50 in pension. Under the assets test, the full pension is reduced by $1.50 per fortnight for each $1000 above the threshold. Pension eligibility is then assessed using the test which produces the lowest pension. 
Because of the way the numbers work, almost everybody with financial assets in excess of $350,000 is assessed under the assets test. The government has now announced that the asset test taper rate is going to be changed, but by increasing the threshold at which it starts, a significant number of part pensioners will become full pensioners. For a single homeowner, the base will rise from $202,000 to $250,000 and for a homeowner couple it will rise from $286,500 to $375,000. The cut-off points will be approximately $535,000 for single homeowners, and $810,000 for homeowner couples. These are approximate numbers as the changes will not take effect until 2017, and the numbers will be increased on 1 July each year by the CPI. This will hit hardest on retirees with substantial assets. 
An age pensioner couple with $750,000 of assessable assets should currently be receiving $602 a fortnight pension. Under the new rules, this would drop by $430 a fortnight, or $11,180 a year. That’s going to be a big impact on their budget. I was discussing this on Radio 2UE last Saturday with George and Paul, and a listener pointed out that under the proposed rules, a person with $900,000 in assets would get no pension whatsoever, and if their money was in the bank earning 3%, the income generated would be just $27,000 a year. They contrasted this with the situation of a full pensioner with minimal assets, who would be getting $34,000 a year indexed. It’s a valid point, but as I said to the listener, the person with $900,000 would be taking a very high risk if they kept their money in cash. They should have a diversified portfolio which hopefully should be giving them at least 6%.
Yes, I am well aware that many retirees are risk averse – this is why I have been urging my readers for years to get acquainted with growth assets like shares at an early an age as possible. 
The big news in super right now is the proposal by Opposition Leader Bill Shorten to hit thousands of self funded retirees with a new tax on super – the implications of which have obviously never occurred to anybody in the Labor Party. Unfortunately, dreaming up impractical ideas to hit superannuants is not just the prerogative of Labor. 
Who could forget August 1996, when incoming Prime Minister Howard introduced a surcharge of 15% on superannuation contributions? There was no consultation with industry, and the cost of administering it was almost as much as it raised. It was called a ‘surcharge’ because the Coalition had promised “no new taxes”, but voters weren’t fooled by the terminology. It was one of the most unpopular imposts ever put upon the Australian people, was watered down in 2001, and abolished altogether in June 2005. The irony is that it is still causing work at the tax office due to defined benefit liabilities, and the amendment of old returns. When introducing legislation to abolish the surcharge, Finance Minister Nick Minchin said, “We made clear in 1996 that the surcharge was not good policy per se, but was a necessary measure to help get the budget back in good shape … we can now remove what was only ever seen as temporary medicine for Labor's fiscal follies”. 
The Gillard Labor government announced a reintroduction of the surcharge at its original rate of 15% in the May 2012 Budget. It was not passed by parliament until June 2013, but was then backdated to take effect from July 2012. But an extra tax on contributions is not enough for Labor. They now wish to tax members in pension phase as well. Shorten has announced that, if elected, Labor would “re-introduce” a tax on the earnings of super funds, and reverse the abolition of such a tax by the Howard government in the May 2006 Budget. He can’t even get his facts right. There has never been a tax on the earnings of a super fund in pension phase – what the Howard government actually did was make withdrawals from super tax free once a member reached the age of 60. 
Labor proposes a tax of 15% to apply to the earnings of superannuation funds in excess of $75,000 a year per member. On the face of it, that’s simple, but as ex-Tax Office Deputy Commissioner Stuart Forsyth points out, it would be a nightmare to administer in practice. He believes Labor is suggesting “a new calculation of a notional share of the taxable income of the fund that could apply to a member’s account as if it were not in pension phase. This would then be adjusted for capital gains, and then aggregated by the ATO. Any liability would somehow be advised to multiple funds, with the potential to be amended on multiple occasions.” 
As Forsyth points out, this would create a new and strange compliance burden, while the cost to implement it would be prohibitive both at the government level and the industry level. Whenever I make a speech, I ask the audience what they think about super. There are those who love it, and those who hate it – but on one aspect there is a common belief. Everybody is sick of the continual changes. 
When the Rudd–Gillard government was in office, they made history by being the only government in Australia’s history to alter the superannuation settings in every Budget from the time they gained office in 2007 until their resounding defeat at the polls in 2013. There is an overwhelming demand for superannuation to be left alone. It’s time all political parties listened.
 Click here to visit Noel Whittakers website.

Australia's interest bill on Public Debt

We pay over $41.6 million per day or $1,736,111 per hour, 24 hours a day in interest to service the public debt. That's what I found out through the quiz found here, though I already had a fair idea... Something to contemplate when you consider tonight's budget ...

Monday, May 11, 2015

Thoughts on Progressives, Conservatives, Socialism and Capitalism …

... the virtue of capitalism awaits its new advocates ...

A Progressive or those who champion collectivism the see a loafer, bum, panhandler or simply an incompetent family or individual leading a dissolute life and says/thinks:

“This is not your fault, society has done this to you, let me take you to the shelter and get you clothing, feed you, try to get you detoxed from whatever chemical dependency you may have. Afterwards, we’ll visit the local Centrelink office to ensure your getting all that you are entitled to and I will extending a hand for there is no limit to my compassion and caring" ....

Progressives really live this; they have a natural propensity to give bread and fish instead of teaching one how to fish for themselves, they value a socialistic ethos of living and will never see nor understand the conservative way of responding.

A Conservative or those that champion individualism sees same and says/thinks:

“There is not doubt life has given you a bad cast of luck right now. Well, I am going to help you help yourself. I am not going to coddle you and feel sorry for you rather, I am going to impel you through tough love and show you how to get some self-esteem so that you can become a wealth earner and a resource to society instead of being a wealth-waster and a consumer of society's resources. I am going to give you this gut string and show you how to fish, cook the fish and never have to depend on anybody again for as long as you live".....

Conservatives are wired to be independent, isolationists, and fend for themselves. They value a capitalistic ethos and accordingly will never see nor understand the progressive way of responding. There are winners and losers in capitalism. If you want to win, you are likely to be honest, industrious, thoughtful, prudent, frugal, responsible, disciplined, efficient and a value a conservative ethos. Losers are lazy, imprudent, ignorant, extravagant, negligent, impractical, inefficient, and almost certainly value a socialist ethos.

Capitalism is the social system that rewards virtue and punishes vice; something that applies across all sectors and occupations whether it be doctors, business executives, or plumbers.

In the twentieth-century, collectivism has been thrust upon us in various guises: socialism, Fascism, Nazism, and Communism to name a few. The only social system corresponding with individualism is laissez-faire capitalism.

The great advances of the past 150 years in addition to, the astonishing level of material prosperity realized owes itself to the capitalist system. In view of this, I find it perplexing that our educational institutions, professors, many politicians, and those in journalism deride the principles of free enterprise while holding the moral high ground arguing that it is exploitative, dehumanizing, alienating, and ultimately enchaining. The manner in which elements of John Howard’s years in office have been criticized illustrate that it’s almost fashionable to adopt the collectivist method, the intellectuals’ argument suggests that socialism is the morally superior system. That even though their records of failure suggest otherwise, capitalism is a morally bankrupt system regardless of the prosperity it continues to create, thus capitalism can only be defended on matter of fact grounds.

We must revive and teach our young the virtues associated with being free and independent citizens and notwithstanding the intellectuals’ foolish hatred of capitalism, it is the moral and just social system. The system that unleashes the potential of the entrepreneur, the very individuals that gave us penicillin, the internal combustion engine, the airplane, radio, the incandescent light globe, air conditioning, computers, and medical vaccines. What the capitalist values most, is individual freedom, minimal government intervention, taxation and regulation. To great a reliance on welfare, and tariffs, and collective based IR conditions are immoral because they are coercive, inhibit individual pursuits, and contradict our right to exist as, not merely autonomous moral agents, but as a self-contained individualenterprises.

As we enter the twenty-first century, the virtue of capitalism awaits its new advocates - those prepared to endorse the principle of individual rights as the basis for a free society.

Your comments are most welcomed ... 

Budget 2015: Paid Parental leave

Should new mothers lose access to the Federal Government's Paid Parental Leave if they get maternity leave through their employer?

Is it double dipping as the Government suggests?

Most people I asked today indicated that it is right to lose access if women get PPL from the employer. This is is consistent with some web polls conducted by news organisations today showing that up to 65% of respondents chose "Yes".

The original scheme was designed to let women "complement" their employer scheme with the government's one but with this loophole removed the government is going to save close to $1 billion with its cut to PPL entitlements from July 2016 and the budget needs the savings.

What do you think?

Sunday, May 10, 2015

New Formula for Budget 2015

The Coke marketing analogy is credible. As people can change, companies can change and Governments can change ...
A few years back Coca-Cola decided to enter the energy drink market. It launched a product called Mother that was so bad eight out of 10 consumers said they hated the taste. Instead of deleting it Coca-Cola completely reformulated it and printed on the top of every can: "New. Tastes nothing like the old one". 
Tuesday's budget is genuinely new.
Read the rest here 
The real reason for the change of heart, direction and budgetary urgency is two fold. Political capital or lack thereof as eroded by the poor form shown in 2014 and, what appears to be a real case of change for the better, hence they have learned from their erroneous ways. Think congeniality, listening, empathy, consultation, consensus and teamwork.

Teamwork deserves special emphasis as it's noted that the entire senior Abbott ministry is behind the sell of this budget. Sussan Ley, Peter Dutton, Scott Morrison, Josh Frydenberg and Warren Truss are just a few who have shared the selling of the budget to date. I suspect this is part of the new strategy, a whole team approach with the treasurer at the centre. Just this morning in an interview with Laurie Oakes, Joe Hockey appeared evasive about some budget details already released, indicating that the Prime Minister would outline more throughout the day. Oakes chuckled while adding, "it seems strange the treasurer cannot talk about his budget".

If the Abbott Government has truly changed it ought be applauded. Change is hard for people, organisations and Government because of the underlying fears associated with perceptions. It must be managed to counter some possible perceived losses including:
  • Security – perceived loss of control, not knowing where the Government stands.
  • Competence – perceived as no longer knowing what and how to do.
  • Sense of direction 
  • Respect – fallout from being criticised for failing in the old ways.
  • Expert knowledge – perceived lack of expertise.
  • Disruption of routine – loss of familiar territories and predictability factors.
  • Threat to position, power, security and authority. 
The Government appears to be reframing itself successfully through its actions which in turn, are challenging the assumption that change can have negative impacts. It is  focusing on the positive elements of the budget and selling accordingly.

Still, Government is Government and hard choices need to be made and sold, that said, this is the budget for the times, the new formula and I predict a better year for Abbott,  Hockey and co.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Chan and Sukumaran

It seems both Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran will face the firing squad in mere hours and there seems little our Gov't can do about it, moreover here's why. 

France also has one of it's citizens awaiting execution his name being Serge Atlaoui, and in spite of the French Governments best efforts he too will meet the same fate as the Australians. This is telling because France has considerably more international clout than Australia.
  • It is a superpower in terms of the EU
  • A member of the powerful G7 economic bloc and
  • One of five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.
This is not to suggest that we as a nation are a pushover indeed, geographically speaking we are the superpower of the region and have significant trade ties with Indonesia.

Still, French President Francois Hollande can do little, and his pleadings for clemency are falling on deaf ears as are those of both our Foreign Minister and Prime Minister.

Indonesia's intransigence on this matter has been both frustrating and deplorable...

When Politics and Schools should not mix

Recently, upon driving past my old Primary school in the Heidelberg area, I was dismayed to note a huge banner, perhaps 10 metres in length, adorning the main fence. I cannot recall the exact wording, but it referenced children in detention and questioned how detention centres are no place for kids to learn. There were many teddy bears and other soft toys attached to the fence by the schools children? 

Can anyone see the problem with this? 

Amongst other things, it grinds how the left and progressive intelligentsia, the chattering classes, have so polluted our education system and school curriculums such that they pursue, quite publically, such postmodernism and moral relativism. 

I was compelled to email the school principal the next morning in the hope that (she) would engage me about it, my email read:


I cannot see the wisdom behind having that banner about children in detention on the school/church fence.  Certainly, it is not good news to have any child in detention but consider the broader implications of engaging in such a polemically charged political issue that is, asylum seekers and particular, children in detention. One wonders if you had a banner up two years ago and if so, how large was it then, when some 2000 children were in our detention centres. Fast forward to today and we note that the number of children in detention centres has dropped approximately 90% to around 190, depending on your source.

At this rate of decline, there may be no kids left in detention within a few months, and whom can we thank for that?  Moreover, how about some thought for the estimated six hundred children who lost their lives and will spend an eternity at the bottom of the Indian Ocean, prior to the current border protection legislation that you have inadvertently alluded to through the banner. The very legislation you are indirectly in critique of.

I refer to the highly successful operation sovereign borders legislation viz, 

What is evident about schools and academia is that it is not really about the cause, but about the side one is on. It’s ideological therefore leading to the political. That is the reason there is much more fuss made about 190 kids (and falling) in detention today, as opposed to so little fuss paid to the issue when there were thousands of kids in detention, not least the other additional estimated 600 that died en route.

It is my hope that you can come to appreciate the political overtones expressed by your banner for they cannot be escaped.

Yours faithfully,
Otto Marasco
(Address, Mobile No. and Email address included)

Needless to add, the school principal did not engage me as there was no reply to my email, how predictable … 

Your comments are welcomed ...