Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Doing climate change science better

The language was formal and measured but the message was savage enough. The InterAcademy Council (IAC), a multinational organization of science academies “created to produce reports on scientific, technological, and health issues related to the great global challenges of our time, providing knowledge and advice to national governments and international organizations”, found the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had some major failings in the way it went about “providing policy-relevant information”.
Some examples from the section of the report on Transparency:
From extensive oral and written input gathered by the Committee, it is clear that several stages of the assessment process are poorly understood, even to many scientists and government representatives who participate in the process. Most important are the absence of criteria for selecting key participants in the assessment process and the lack of documentation for selecting what scientific and technical information is assessed.
… no matter how well constructed IPCC’s assessment practices may be, the quality of the result depends on the quality of the leaders at all levels who guide the assessment process. It is only by engaging the energy and expertise of a large cadre of distinguished scholars as well as the thoughtful participation of government representatives that high standards are maintained and that truly authoritative assessments continue to be produced. Moreover, the IPCC should think more creatively about maintaining flexibility in the character and structure of the assessment, including the number and scope of Working Groups and the timing of reports.
For a review by perhaps the world’s most prestigious scientific organisation of a Nobel prize winner the report was quite a severe rebuke.
31-08-2010 reviewsummary

Back to the 1980s with housing

The oft forgotten part of the Labor Government's economic stimulus program was the boost given to providing more government owned housing. Building approval figures out from the Bureau of Statistics show that in the year ended July public dwellings have provided the greatest share of the total since the mid 1980s..
In the 12 months to the end of July this year, of the total dwellings approvals of 170,824, public housing accounted for 15,597 or 9.1% of the total. The last time public housing reached this level was back in August 1984.

Forgetting that peace should be the aim of war

I find myself in agreement with New York Times Op-Ed Columnist Hob Herbert who reminds us that "the goal when fighting any war should be peace, not a permanent simmer of nonstop maiming and killing. Wars are meant to be won," writes Herbert, "— if they have to be fought at all — not endlessly looked after." Yet allowing for a permanent simmering appears to be what the US and its allies like Australia are settling for in Afghanistan. Even the politicians are not trying to kid us that this is a war that the west can actually win. Containment of terrorists - terrorists who have largely moved elsewhere anyhow (see my recent post Australian Troops for Somalia?) - is what the lives of an increasing number of soldiers are being sacrificed for.
Some telling extracts from We Owe the Troops an Exit - NYTimes.com:
"There is no silver lining to this nearly decade-old war in Afghanistan. Poll after poll has shown that it no longer has the support of most Americans. And yet we fight on, feeding troops into the meat-grinder year after tragic year — to what end?"
"One of the reasons we’re in this state of nonstop warfare is the fact that so few Americans have had any personal stake in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is no draft and no direct financial hardship resulting from the wars. So we keep shipping other people’s children off to combat as if they were some sort of commodity, like coal or wheat, with no real regard for the terrible price so many have to pay, physically and psychologically.
Not only is this tragic, it is profoundly disrespectful. These are real men and women, courageous and mostly uncomplaining human beings, that we are sending into the war zones, and we owe them our most careful attention. Above all, we owe them an end to two wars that have gone on much too long."

Monday, 30 August 2010

About as close to a dead heat as you can guess

At the close of counting today the Australian Electoral Commission had this election about as close to a dead heat as you can get with the Coalition in front by a whisker on the two party preferred vote.

Party   Votes      %  Swing

Australian Labor Party 5,344,856         49.99    -2.71

Coalition                       5,346,804        50.01     2.71

Putting Indonesians in prison more quickly

Perhaps the demonstrations in Darwin by the Indonesian crew members who brought boat people to Australia are at last getting the message that being part of the people smuggling business is not a simple way of supplementing a low income. The very fact that they do not like the conditions they are being held under is the best possible way of cutting off the illegal trade. By all means speed up the process of charging them with an illegal activity and transfer them to a Darwin jail from as detention centre after a court appearance but continue to send the message that the price of aiding and abetting people smuggling is being locked up for a long period.

SEE ALSO - Canada attracting Tamils 

Common sense from an Independent

The Independent member for Denison, Andrew Wilkie, was reported tonight as saying that his support for a government would only extend to supporting supply bills and to opposing "reckless" no-confidence motions. To me that seems like the very sensible position for someone elected as an independent to take.

Canada attracting Tamils

There is nothing particularly unique about Australia attracting Sri Lankans to arrive by boat uninvited. Canada has become a prized location too and for ship loans rather than small boat loads. Earlier this month 492 Tamil asylum seekers arrived in British Columbia aboard the MV Sun Sea and today the Toronto Globe and Mail reports on the arrival in Thailand of another major group awaiting a suitable ship to take them across the Pacific.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Graft-Fighting Prosecutor Fired in Afghanistan

Is this why we have our troops in Afghanistan?
Graft-Fighting Prosecutor Fired in Afghanistan - NYTimes.com
"One of the country’s most senior prosecutors said Saturday that President Hamid Karzai fired him last week after he repeatedly refused to block corruption investigations at the highest levels of Mr. Karzai’s government.
"Fazel Ahmed Faqiryar, the former deputy attorney general, said investigations of more than two dozen senior Afghan officials — including cabinet ministers, ambassadors and provincial governors — were being held up or blocked outright by Mr. Karzai, Attorney General Mohammed Ishaq Aloko and others.

SEE ALSO - Australian troops for Somalia?

Australian troops for Somalia?

If fighting international terrorism really is the vital matter that both Australia's potential governments maintain then over in the Defence Department they should be drawing up the plans to send our troops to Somalia. Afghanistan, it is now clear, is no longer the centre of the evil Al Qaeda's activities but that does not mean the terrorist threat has disappeared. It has simply moved elsewhere.
The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, John F.Kerry, summarised the situation outlined in the report in this way:
Two stories in the Washington Post over the weekend confirm the Foreign Relations committee warning. 
Gunmen kill 8 soldiers in southern Yemen: ADEN, Aug 28 (Reuters) - Al-Qaeda's regional wing asserted responsibility for an attack on a checkpoint in southern Yemen on Saturday in which eight soldiers were killed. The attack on the checkpoint occurred in Zinjibar, capital of the flash point Abyan province.
 The AP report went on to refer to this posting on the US Embassy website:
The second Post story gives details of how never before have the radical al-Shabab militiamen attacked so near Somalia's halls of power as they have last week, bringing them closer to their desire to create a Taliban-like Islamic emirate from which to export jihad abroad.
If our politicians are not simply hypocrites presumably they will now be wanting to tackle these latest outbreaks of international terrorism.

SEE ALSO - Is this why we are fighting in Afghanistan?

The market pointing strongly to the Coalition

The "wisdom" of the market is that Australia will soon have a Coalition Government led by Tony Abbott. The Crikey Election Indicator, based on market prices, puts the Coalition at a 77% probability.

Friday, 27 August 2010

The Prime Minister for Funerals

I'm not sure who is actually going to be in charge of the Australian Government in the months ahead. Quite clearly it will not be whoever is the nominal  Prime Minister. He or she will be too busy attending the funerals of Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan.
How we got in to this ridiculous situation where the head of our government attends every military funeral I don't know. I guess it was the John Howard version of spin, an attempt to show he understood the sacrifice that was being made by our army participating in an Iraq war being fought on the basis of the lie that Saddam Hussein's regime was in possession of weapons of mass destruction.
Neither Coalition nor Labor politicians since then have had the courage to confess that they supported sending our soldiers to Iraq to be sacrificed for no reason at all really. None of them have wanted to answer the question posed in today's edition of USA Today: was it worth it?
In their hearts most Australian politicians know that the answer is no. And they know as well that the reason for being in Afghanistan, where our troops are now being killed at an increasing rate, is just as shallow as the argument for having been in Iraq. It is just that they don't want to own up to having supported sending our brave young men to fight and die for no real purpose.

The market favours the Coalition

Well I think we have reached the point where we now know who won what last Saturday. Not that we are any the wiser about who will become Prime Minister.
The figures tonight from the Australian Electoral Commission can be summarised thus:
In terms of seats won it is 72 all with the Coalition having the National Party member from Western Australia saying he will not support a Labor Government while refusing to join the Coalition and a Green saying he would support a "progressive" Labor Government. I guess we can call that 73 all.
That leaves the victor to be chosen by four independents - three of them former National Party members and a fourth who became an independent via membership of the Greens after a stint as a Liberal Party man.
In terms of votes, not that it is really all that relevant, the figures from the AEC on the two party preferred vote are as follows:
How will it all pan out in the end? The best I can do is report that the market favours the Coalition.
The decision by Tony Abbott to abandon his stupid claim that the officials of the Treasury could not be trusted enough to fairly cost his election promises has swung the markets in his favour.

Election result? What a second string yarn

So we had an election. And no one has won. Well it's the second rate story anyway.
The most popular read on the premier website of the nation's biggest media company, news.com.au, had nothing to do with votes. It was, the site tells us, a yarn about the US asking "dude, where's my rocket?" that had people clicking the most during the last week. All about how amateur astronomers are enjoying a cat-and-mouse game with the US military in keeping track of its secret space plane, the X-37B.

The dangerous Irish spread

Spare a thought for your Irish cousins. The reward for its government introducing the toughest austerity measures in Europe to try and ward off the horrors of too high a government deficit in the wash-up of the global financial crisis is that interest rates are on the rise again.
This graph from the Atlanta Fed in the US shows that the Ireland-to-Germany, bond spread is back near the levels reached during the May financial crisis.
27-08-2010 europpeanbondspreads
I suppose things could be worse. Ireland could be Greece where the interest rate demanded by the investors of the world keeps rising.
I wonder at what point the Greek people say enough is enough and force their government to take the knock and stop paying the banks it owes money to? Not long I expect and I hope Australia does not have a caretaker government when the financial crisis that causes comes along

Now a real reason not to like them

 I have discussed the matter with Paunch and Miss Polly and we agree that this fatwa business is getting out of hand.
What do they mean "unclean"? We're Collingwood supporters
It was reported this morning that Iranian authorities have banned all advertisements for pets, pet food and other pet products. The decision by Iran's Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance comes after the fatwa was issued by powerful cleric Grand Ayatollah Nasser Makarem Shirazi.
While keeping dogs as pets has become increasingly fashionable in Iran in recent years, says the London Daily Telegraph, the fatwa cited Islamic tradition, which dictates that dogs are unclean.

The Australian election: When the hat doesn't fit | The Economist

The editorial in London's The Economist this morning reminds us of a simple truth that I for one have tended to overlook while caught up in the drama of who actually won Saturday's election. For Julia Gillard and the Labor Party this has been little short of a complete debacle
The Australian election: When the hat doesn't fit, head lines The Economist: "Australia’s dead-heat election was exciting. But the drama masks a desperately impoverished politics".
And then:
The result is a disaster for Ms Gillard. Not since the Depression have Australians rejected a first-term government. She chose to go to the country when Labor was ahead in the polls, just two months after fronting a coup against Kevin Rudd, seen as an autocrat and a loser after having abandoned his signature climate-change bill. Voters don’t much like assassins, but a half-baked idea for a people’s assembly on climate change and a tack to the right on immigration made Ms Gillard look shallow as well as disloyal. Presiding over a party at war with itself, she would struggle to assert power as prime minister.

A macho man in politics provides real photo opportunities

If there was an award for the political art of providing media photo opportunities it would surely be no contest. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin would win hands down. The man who is expected to reclaim his former job as the country's President at the next election has mastered the art of using television to cultivate the image, as the Moscow Times put it this week "a rugged leader beloved by the Russian people."

This week he was perched precariously aboard a rubber boat in choppy waters firing darts from a crossbow at a gray whale off the Pacific coast to collect skin samples from a whale. Last week he was co-piloting a fire fighting aircraft not long after being photographed fishing bare-chested in the Altai republic, and shown on television diving into an icy river and swimming the butterfly stroke. Back in April the macho Putin attached a satellite-tracking collar onto a tranquilized polar bear, shooting a Siberian tiger with a tranquilizer gun and releasing leopards into a wildlife sanctuary.
It makes bike riding and surfing look pretty tame really.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Certainly no boom

Australia might be doing better with its economy that most OECD countries but there is certainly no boom time. The private new and expected capital expenditure figures out from the Bureau of Statistics this morning has the trend estimate for total new capital expenditure (in volume terms) falling 0.8% in the June quarter 2010 with the seasonally adjusted estimate falling 4.0%.
The trend volume estimate for buildings and structures rose 1.2% in the June quarter 2010 while the seasonally adjusted estimate fell 3.9%. The trend volume estimate for equipment, plant and machinery fell 2.5% in the June quarter 2010 while the seasonally adjusted estimate fell 4.1%.
26-08-2010 newcapitalexpenditure
The figures suggest that the growth in the Australian economy is still modest and thus unlikely to be producing the kind of inflationary pressures that would justify any rise in official interest rates for some time yet.
I should add that the median estimate of 17 highly paid finance industry economists surveyed by Bloomberg News was for a 2.3 percent gain in capital expenditure rather than a 4% fall.

A real governance problem

If Tony Abbott means what he says about not trusting the Federal Treasury then this country really does have a governance problem and it’s nothing to do with how the House of Representatives operates. That the country basically has a public service capable of giving independent and impartial advice to whatever party or coalition is in government is the cornerstone of our democracy.
Apparently the Liberal Party, and presumably the National Party although I have not actually heard its leaders make a comment on the subject, now believes that the Treasury would not make an honest assessment of the economic costs and consequences of the promises it made during the election campaign.
It is hard to think of a more serious attack on the integrity of a group of public servants who are largely the same ones who served the Government of John Howard for more than a decade. The Secretary of the Treasury Dr Ken Henry was appointed to the job in April 2001 and appeared to have the confidence of his ministerial superior Peter Costello until the Coalition was defeated in 2007. Since then the most serious incident that might have undermined confidence in the impartiality and independence of the department was the treacherous way that the then Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull was secretly fed incorrect information by a mid-ranking official.
To the great credit of Treasurer Wayne Swan there was no over reaction to Godwin Grech’s madness. Dr Henry was not held to be responsible nor the whole bunch of Treasury officials tarred with the Grech brush. But now, supposedly on the evidence of one apparent leak casting doubt on the accuracy of Liberal costing of an election promise, the Treasury as a body is not to be trusted.
I fear that the Liberals involved — Tony Abbott, Joe Hockey and Andrew Robb — do not realise the potential for their tactic to undermine public confidence in the whole system of government. Hopefully one day not too far away they will apologise for their stupidity.

Bringing back the Crikey Indicator

I cannot explain what is going on and I’ve no idea how things are going to end up. This choosing of a government business is quite beyond me. The best I can offer is to bring back the Crikey Election Indicator which has been going up and down like a yo-yo since Saturday night.
26-08-2010 crikeyindicator
At the close of voting in the eastern states on election night Labor were given a 74% chance of becoming the government. Since then the Labor probability has been as low as 30% and at midday today was back to being the favoured way at 53%.

Outsourced Call Centers Return, To U.S. Homes : NPR

I wonder how long it will be before the trend comes to Australia?

Outsourced Call Centers Return, To U.S. Homes : NPR:
"For years, Americans have had their phone calls about credit card bills and broken cell phones handled by people in the Philippines or India. But American firms are starting to bring call centers back to the U.S. — and this time around, they are hiring more people to work in their own homes.

Ten years ago, it made a lot of sense to outsource these jobs overseas. But that's changing. Increasingly, companies that want to outsource their customer service jobs are happy with these domestic arrangements.

High inflation and double-digit annual raises in some sectors are pushing up the cost of labor in India. At the same time wages in the U.S. are falling and companies are rethinking the trade-offs associated with outsourcing."

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Stable government with Bob Katter?

The more you read about the man the more absurd becomes the idea of Australia having stable government if it has to rely on Bob Katter’s vote.
25-08-2010 heraldsun
If neither side can get to 76 votes without his then call the sick game off and let’s all vote again without putting ourselves through unnecessary agony.

Germane Germaine

She does write like a charm does Germaine Greer. Her piece, Australian election: Soap opera politics of Ozin the London Daily Telegraph summarises our election and its early aftermath in a style I can only envy and my only disagreement of substance is in her kind treatment of who she says “if anyone deserves to be in a commanding position it is Katter.”
A sample of Germaine Greer's verdict in the London Daily Telegraph
A sample of Germaine Greer’s verdict in the London Daily Telegraph

Making a monkey out of me

No sooner had I praised Tony Abbott for having the good sense to refrain from publicly giving advice to the three country independents than the man goes and gives a press conference on the subject. I apologise. The man has not learned to be politically smart at all. He has just been incredibly lucky.

The blazing heights of current affairs TV

Be assured. Our commercial television news and current affairs shows still have some way to go before reaching the vanguard of world industry best practice.
24-08-2010 manburnstodeathfortvratings
The Indian Mail Today reports that two TV journalists have been arrested in Ahmedabad for coaxing a man to immolate himself outside a police station in front of their cameras.

One for the climate change lawyers

How is statehood defined under international law? Can a state maintain its legal personality despite its lack of physical territory or the uninhabitability of its territory?
How might respective national Constitutional legal interpretations of statehood interact with international law in this regard? How do legal rights to self-determination and territorial integrity play a role in determining statehood? Would a state that no longer has any land still be entitled to a seat in the United Nations, and be able to invoke the legal rights of states, such as instituting proceedings before the International Court of Justice?
Such questions posed by the Center for Climate Change Law (CCCL) at Columbia Law School might sound a bit academic but for the government of the of the Republic of the Marshall Islands they are real enough. The Marshall Islanders saw that in its 2007 Assessment Report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change noted that sea level is projected to rise at an average rate of about 5 mm/yr over the 21st century, with the maximum rate of rise in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean.
Given that the land masses of many low-lying island states exist at or just a few meters above sea level, rising sea levels raise prospects of land loss, vital infrastructure loss, and population relocation, not to mention the effects on water supply, marine resources, and agriculture that may be wrought by changes in rainfall patterns and extreme weather events.
Thus the decision to get the CCCL to host an international conference on the subject of Drowning Island Nations: Legal Implications and Remedies. The request for relevant papers closes on 1 September.

A danger signal or two

When fears about the future of the Greek economy were at their highest back in May the gap between the interest rate Germany paid on a 10 year bond and what the Greek Government had to fork out peaked at 9.63 percentage points (or basis points as the experts put it.)

The gap narrowed markedly after the European Union and the International Monetary Fund came to the financial rescue after insisting on a Greek fiscal austerity program.
Now, I notice, the gap is widening again:
25-08-2010 greece'swideninginterestgap
Doubts clearly are growing that the economic problems of Europe are not over as interest rates for Ireland are also edging higher.
Meanwhile in the United States 10 year bond rates are moving in the downwards direction as doubts grow about the extent of the country’s economic recovery. And get ready for more dismal economic news from the US with some pundits predicting that Friday’s revised figures for second quarter GDP growth will be down from the advance estimate of  a 2.4% annualized rate to 1.3% real annualized growth.

Monday, 23 August 2010

If stable government is desired the Greens must decide

It's all well and good for Labor and Liberal-Nationals to be making their appeals to the independent members of the House of Representatives who will have the balance of power in the lower house but what the independents decide is irrelevant when it comes to the question of whether Australia will emerge with a stable government.
Like it or not we have a bicameral Parliament and from 1 July next year it is the Green Senators who will determine what things become law and what don't. Without the agreement of the Greens any pact with the Independents will be worthless when it comes to guaranteeing that a government, whether of the Coalition or the Labor variety, can actually govern.
That harsh reality means there really is no choice for the Independents if stability is a principal aim as they seem to be saying. The idea of a Coalition-Green alliance is a sick joke and just not on. The Greens are too far away from the centre on too many issues for that to be workable. Any attempt by Bob Brown and his team to keep a Coalition led by Tony Abbott in power would result in a massive disillusionment among its supporters.
A minority Labor administration or another election are the only practical alternatives.

Don't worry about mandates

At least we won't have to listen to government politicians -- a government of whatever colours -- talking about having a mandate for their actions. Neither the Coalition nor Labor can claim to have one when they both got well under 50% of the primary vote and just about shared the two party preferred measure.

The Rudd factor

 If the sacking of Kevin Rudd had an influence on Labor's poor Queensland vote the available evidence suggests it was because of the way the deed was done rather than any great popularity for the former Prime Minister himself. The statewide swing against Labor in the northern state on Saturday night's primary votes was 8.9% yet in Rudd's own seat of Griffith it was slightly higher at 9.1%.

Wise words of Windsor

 I thought the continuing member for New England Tony Windsor put things nicely in one of his television interview when he could not distinguish between the two alternatives for government, describing them both as nothing more than two sets of career managers after the same jobs.

Two deaths, a birth and a possible rebirth

Saturday's Senate vote enables us to declare two political parties as effectively dead. The Democrats vote halved to just over 0.6 per cent of the national total with One Nation just making the half a percent level.
The only newcomer of note was the Australian S-x Party which ended Saturday night on 1.99%. That there is hope of life after death was shown by the Democratic Labor Party whose 2.2% in Victoria (1% nationwide) has given it an aside chance of actually winning a Senate seat.

Still a warming world

So back to really serious matters. The world is still having a very warm year. The daily global average temperature, which the graph shows as at 14,000 ft because it enables me to put in a record high and a long term average which the sea level one does not for some reason, continues to be the hottest recorded.
23-08-2010 globaltemperature
The smooth green/blue line is the long term average temperature; the purple is the record high; 2009 is the other up and down type of green; the light green with the box at the end of it is this year to date

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Danger for Independents when they're not independent

The three or four Independents to be elected to the House of Representatives look like finding themselves in a position of considerable power, but they will also have the difficulty of reconciling a public desire for stable government with maintaining the independence which their constituents find so attractive.
It will be no easy task and probably ensures that any guarantees given to the Liberal-Nationals or Labor would be limited to a narrow range of matters, like ensuring the passage of supply bills. To go any further than that would be to become a virtual member of a governing coalition with the risk that that is how they will be treated at the polls the next time.
For the single Green MP the situation is slightly easier but there will be an expectation, should his vote be a deciding one for Labor, that his vote will be used to move the government to the left.

Limited scope for Liberal-National action

It is just as well for the Coalition of Liberals and Nationals that it went to the election without any extensive legislative agenda, for after 1 July next year it will have difficulty enacting anything controversial. The Greens from then on will become a dominant force and will surely be obstructionist. If there is to be any extensive cost cutting, for example, it will need to be done quickly.

A full term would be a miracle

Whoever forms government will pull off an amazing feat if it can survive in office for a full three year term. Negotiating things through a Senate where the Greens hold the balance of power will be one thing. Dealing with Greens and Independents in the House of Representatives as well will make the legislative process a nightmare.

Disunity is political death

It's an old saying but a true one -- for a political party disunity is death. In Queensland and New South Wales in the last couple of years Labor has been divided among itself--- not just at the parliamentary level but more importantly at the rank-and-file and trade union level -- on the question of privatisation. It is the Federal Labor Party that yesterday was punished for that division with the sacking of Queensland's own boy in Kevin Rudd thrown in for good measure.

Did anything really change?

We have all watched the ups and downs of opinion polls and the market with interest over the last month but perhaps the campaign in fact changed nothing and we should have just gone back a little further in time when making our predictions. When Labor moved so ruthlessly to replace Kevin Rudd with Julia Gillard it was because the party bosses had determined that it was going to lose. That the change made little difference is now clear. Maybe the public mind was made up months ago and nothing that happened subsequently changed it.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Not much in the campaign

I'm not certain about the importance of election campaigns in determining who wins elections. To me the evidence is not clear that anything said or done in the 30 plus days after an Australian federal election is called actually influences the votes. But because I'm someone who used to play the game of the strategist I got into the habit of judging who won each and every day even though it might well have been meaningless.
For this campaign my judgment is that the campaigns were largely irrelevant. I cannot think, for example, of one political party advertisement that would have influenced one person to change their mind. And the operatives on both sides have been equally skilled in presenting their candidate in a favourable light for the television news bulletins.
On my score chart I have the Coalition winning on more days with Labor marginally ahead overall.
The markets, as measured by the Crikey Election Indicator, have also not moved much during the course of this campaign. Just before midnight they had the probability of a Labor victory at 63%

Spruiking their wares from the middle of the beach

I'm pleased I don't work for Tony Abbott. In the election campaigns that I helped run we used to call the game over at midday on Friday and adjourn to a decent restaurant where the party leader would shout us lunch. Nothing more we can do, we would say, as we tucked into another bottle.
Not so with this lot of leaders. Tony is so wound up he threatens to keep campaigning right through until 6pm on Saturday! And Julia Gillard waited until Friday night to have dinner with her staff at the Penrith Leagues Club. The Penrith Leagues Club?
Things just ain't what they used to be.
And election campaigns aren't either.
The discussion of ideas, policies for the future, have finally disappeared from the agenda. This election has been the classic demonstration of the truth of that principle that two ice cream sellers on the same beach gravitate towards standing alongside each other in the middle so they can share the market.
How will voters choose between them? The pollsters don't seem able to tell us. Those published today perhaps have Labor a nose in front but they are making all kinds of qualifications about swings being different in different states that mean the Coalition could win with minority national support.
I guess it will come down to the spur of the moment decision that many people will make when they finally get to the ballot box.
Readers of my words over the years will know that I am a believer in the underdog thesis when it comes to incumbent governments. When people who are unhappy about some of the things that a government has done think that the government is likely to win easily, they vote against it in protest. When they believe their vote is really doing to count they reluctantly give their support.
I expect that on Saturday we will see that reluctant support get Labor over the line.

Could a man who drinks shandies become our Prime Minister?

It was almost a gaff free campaign for Tony Abbott. None of the slips of the tongue for which he was renowned before becoming Liberal Leader. Always polite on the campaign trail. Nothing said or done out of place. Until virtually election eve when he called in at a Manly pub and ordered a shandy. For God's sake, a shandy! Beer and lemonade! What kind of man is that? If God had meant us to drink that he would have put the lemonade in the bottle.
Meanwhile Julia Gillard was out drinking Toohey's old. A dark and proper working person's beer.
The contrast was stark.
Was this election of 2010 won and lost in the pub?

A thought about tomorrow

Former federal and state independent MP Ted Mack writing in today's Sydney Morning Herald:
"Party leaders and prime ministers come and go without reference to the voters. There is no mechanism to ensure promises are kept. Your vote is limited to the choice of who might represent your electorate- after the faceless party people and branch stackers have chosen the bulk of the candidates. In truth, our electoral system is an illusion of democracy.."

One in four Americans wrongly believe Barack Obama is Muslim - Telegraph

They are Americans and they can vote!
One in four Americans wrongly believe Barack Obama is Muslim - Telegraph:
"An increasing number of Americans wrongly believe that President Barack Obama is a Muslim, with nearly one in four saying he is a follower of Islam, according to a new poll."

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Don't be fooled by so-called internal polling

The Labor Party is concerned that too many people think it will win Saturday's election and that complacency will convince some of its disappointed normal supporters to make a protest vote in the belief that it is safe to teach it a lesson without there being any danger of the other lot actually being elected. Hence the leaking to television journalists tonight that while in front 52 to 48 on the nationwide vote Labor's internal polling showed a considerable variation between States and between electorates that was putting the Government in danger.
Unless there has been an outbreak of honesty since I had a role in that grubby task of election campaigning there is very little likelihood that such "internal polling" actually exists except in the imagination of the leaker. In my day I certainly conducted most of this kind of survey all on my own and always found exactly the result reported so breathlessly tonight. To me the amazing thing is the eagerness of journalists to believe any nonsense that they can turn into a rattling good yarn.
I can see no reason to stop putting no store at all in opinion polls - so-called internal party ones or newspaper published ones

Searching for the tats vote

The final television third party endorsement of the campaign shows the Liberal Party really is a very broad church:
19-08-2010 angryandersonad

Who won the news cycle? Labor to cheer for the Broncos and the Cats

Julia Gillard has definitely been coming home the better.
The crazy flying around the country at all hours has provided the travelling media crew with enough amusement to keep them away from mischief. Some were even kind enough to rate her the winner at last night’s pokie palace joint appearance with Tony Abbott. Earlier in the campaign all they would have been commenting on was her copying the relaxed Abbott approach of standing at the same level as the audience.
Only one major slip up that I noticed. Knocking the most supported football team in the competiti0n is rarely good politics but perhaps those Magpies are so content about being on top of the ladder without the faintest sign of the Colliwobbles that they will simply ignore the Prime Ministerial teasing. Of far more importance on the football front will be tomorrow night’s NRL and AFL games.
A defeat for Geelong would put Corangamite in jeopardy while a win for the local champions would put voters in a mood of contentment where faults in a Government are overlooked rather than punished. All Liberal and National voters should be cheering for Carlton.
Up in rugby league territory the Broncos need the victory over Newcastle and it would certainly help mollify any of those Brisbane supporters horrified that the good name of their club was sullied by last night’s political talkfest.
On the thesis that there is an improved vote for an incumbent when a fancied team is winning games, Labor voters should also be barracking for Penrith against South Sydney.
19-08-2010 dailywinner
19-08-2010 crikeyelectionindicator

Not going ga ga and beating rubber chicken

Having pronounced an extended family connection with Lady Ga Ga, Julia Gillard might like to follow the example of  US Senator Frank Lautenberg and include listening to Beautiful Dirty Rich as part of a future fund raising event. The 86 year old New Jersey Democrat has booked a luxury suite at a Lady Ga Ga concert on 7 September as the scene for his next campaign fund raiser.
The Senator and the singer
Then again, perhaps those businessmen who have been reminded of the taste of chicken during the current Australian election season would prefer the approach of Senator Kent Conrad who this week sent out invitations to his "biggest non-event of the year". 
"You are invited not to attend a special reception for Friends of Kent Conrad", Washington Post columnist Al Kamen reports of the invite which highlights the people "Already Committed Not to Attend: Sandra Bullock, Michael Jackson, George Clooney," and those who were "Not Invited to Attend: Lady Gaga, Lindsay Lohan, Simon Cowell."
The fundraiser will be "anytime after Aug. 15, 2010, but before Sept. 10, 2010," and will be held "wherever you want" and at whatever time you want. The "suggested contribution levels" for this non-happening are $2,500 for a PAC and $1,000 for individuals.
And here are the key benefits, according to the invite, of the non-event event:
With the time you would otherwise spend with the Friends of Kent Conrad, you could:
-- Update your Facebook page.
-- Floss.
-- Do absolutely nothing.
-- Spend time with your family.
-- Recite words that rhyme with orange.
-- Sleep.

Preparing for Monday

The votes are counted. The party's over. You supported a loser. You are now embarrassed to have that bumper sticker on your car. You need help.
Understanding the keen, green nature of my audience I therefore bring you this advice from the Planet Green website:

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Fix the Chaser boys - follow Brazil

I suppose it would be one way to fix those Chaser boys.

Satire banned in Brazil ahead of presidential election - Telegraph:

Brazil's comedians and satirists have been banned from making fun of candidates ahead of the nation's presidential election in October.

"Dubbed the 'anti-joking law', the relic of Brazil's 1964-1985 dictatorship prohibits ridiculing candidates in the three months before elections.
Critics say the ban threatens free speech and is a blight on the reputation of Latin America's largest nation.
'Do you know of any other democracy in the world with rules like this?' asked Marcelo Tas, the acerbic host of a weekly TV comedy show that skewers politicians and celebrities alike.
'If you want to find a bigger joke, you would have to look to Monty Python.'
Proponents say the restrictions keep candidates from being portrayed unfairly, help ensure a level playing field and encourage candour by those seeking to replace centre-Left President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
Making fun of candidates on air ahead of elections is punishable by fines up to �72,000 and a broadcast licence suspension."

Rupert Murdoch donates $1m to Republican party

If you believe the comment from the News Corporation spokesman quoted in this story you will believe anything!

Rupert Murdoch donates $1m to Republican party - Telegraph:
"Rupert Murdoch has donated $1 million to the Republican party, more than doubling its fundraising in the second quarter of the year and giving a boost to candidates in the November mid-term elections."

The $1m was donated to the Republican Governors Association (RGA) in June. The body supports Republican gubernatorial candidates.
News Corp spokesman Jack Horner said the contribution was intended to promote the company's core beliefs.
"News Corporation has always believed in the power of free markets and in organisations like the RGA, which have a pro-business agenda and support our priorities at this most critical time for our economy," he said.
"The corporate donation has no impact on the reporting activities of our newsgathering organisations. There is a strict wall between business and editorial and the corporate office does not consult with our newsgathering organisations ... before making donations."

Unnecessary alarm

The headline on the ABC web site nearly gave me apoplexy this morning: Scots create whisky based fuel. Don't tell me, I feared that things have come to the pretty pass where they are burning the beautiful elixir rather than drinking it. And just when that wonderfulvideo feature on Crikey yesterday had sent me down to the local for fresh supplies. Oh the relief to read that it is just the by-products of the distilling process that are being used to make the butanol biofuel. And how great to know that with every tipple I will be helping reduce the world's reliance on fossil fuel!

Sharing super brain's analysis

My old colleague "Superbrain - the man with a computer for a mind", as they called him on the London Sun back in the 1970s when I travelled with him to London to introduce ratings to that paper's racing pages, has dabbled over the years with betting on elections and had considerable success at it too as he does on all things where he chooses to have a wager. There aren't many people in this world who have survived paying taxes on gambling winnings for nigh on 50 years and I've certainly found his opinions profitably worth taking notice of so you might find his analysis of the markets on this Australian election of interest.
The starting point is the market on individual seats as quoted by the major bookmakers - on this occasion he has ignored the market on the Betfair exchange because for some reason there has been very little action - and taken as marginal all those where both sides, after taking out the bookmaker's margin, are given at least a 10% chance of victory. In the last few days the market has moved in this fashion:
18-08-2010 HOWTHEMARKETHASMOVEDAdd up the percentage chances for the 48 seats in this survey of the marginals and, with other seats staying with the same party as now, you end up with the Coalition gaining 4.4 seats to end up with 69.4, the ALP losing five to  come down to 77 with Greens and others having the balance of 3.7 between them. The text books suggest the standard deviation on this kind of analysis is 3.43 so the extra seats the Coalition requires to win is equal to 1.11 standard deviations. Convert this to a probability and you have Labor as an 86.7% chance of staying in Government with the Coalition as a 13.3% chance of winning.
All that depends, of course, on whether you think that the markets on individual seats provide us with a better guide than the market on the likely overall winner which is measured by the Crikey Election Indicator. This morning the Indicator gives us the following picture:
18-08-2010 crikeyelectionindicatorMy own experience suggests that as election day gets closer the Indicator tends to not get the favourite in short enough. Personally I am thus taking Superbrain's guide and having a dollar with my sponsor Sportingbet on a Labor victory. The $1.28 will do me.