Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Refugees harm selves on Nauru

I don't care what she did 20 years ago - I'm sick at what Julia Gillard's doing now!

Refugees harm selves on Nauru: "TEN episodes of self-harm at the Nauru processing centre in 24 hours were a direct response to the government's decision to release thousands of recently arrived asylum seekers into the community, according to Nauru detainees. The Immigration Department confirmed that four acts of self-harm on Tuesday night were followed by another two episodes on Wednesday, saying some of the men received treatment for superficial injuries at the centre and none were transferred to the island's hospital. Another four incidents followed late in the afternoon, according to an asylum seeker. ''I cannot express what is happening here,'' the man said. ''Everyone is crying and saying, 'Why am I here?'''"

'via Blog this'

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Beating question time hands down

 I did a rare thing this evening. I watched television and am glad I did.
The program on the ABC's 24 hour news channel was a community Cabinet meeting in Brisbane. And how refreshing it was to see and hear ministers giving serious answers to sensible questions.
A refreshing contrast to my normal political television watching -  question time in the House of Representatives.

Monday, 12 November 2012

New wave pollsters - Essential and Google

About a month ago in my column for I declared Essential Research to be "my favourite pollster". That conversion (I had many months previously, wrongly, rather dismissed its relevance for being some new-fangled internet thing) was based on what seemed to me to be sensibly small weekly changes in its findings rather than the dramatic ups-and-downs of the other pollsters. Essential results seemed to tally much better with what Rod Cameron and Margie Gibbs of ANOP used to present me with when working on Labor election campaigns.
Now perhaps I have found an explanation, other than my own gut reaction, of why the pollster Crikey publishes each week might in fact be a better guide than Newspoll and AC Nielsen.
Nate Silver, the election prediction guru of The New York Times, writes today how, as Americans’ modes of communication change, the techniques that produce the most accurate polls seem to be changing as well. In Tuesday’s presidential election, he says, a number of polling firms that conduct their surveys online had strong results. Some telephone polls also performed well. But others, especially those that called land lines only or took other methodological shortcuts, performed poorly.
Some of the most accurate polling firms this year conducted their polls online. The final poll by Google Consumer Surveys had Mr. Obama ahead in the national popular vote by 2.3 percentage points — very close to his actual margin of 2.6 percentage points, as of Saturday morning. Ipsos, which conducted online polls for Reuters, and the Canadian online polling firm Angus Reid also fared well.
 (Click to enlarge)
Looking more broadly across the 90 polling firms that conducted at least one likely-voter poll in the final three weeks of the campaign, polling firms that conducted their polls wholly or partially online outperformed others on average. Among the nine in that category, the average error in calling the election result was 2.1 percentage points.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Denmark to abolish tax on high-fat foods

Hooray! A setback for the social engineers!
BBC News - Denmark to abolish tax on high-fat foods: "The Danish government has said it intends to abolish a tax on foods which are high in saturated fats. The measure, introduced a little over a year ago, was believed to be the world's first so-called "fat tax". Foods containing more than 2.3% saturated fat - including dairy produce, meat and processed foods - were subject to the surcharge. But authorities said the tax had inflated food prices and put Danish jobs at risk. The Danish tax ministry said it was also cancelling its plans to introduce a tax on sugar, the AFP news agency reports."

'via Blog this'

Saturday, 10 November 2012

The slush fund story that refuses to go away

This morning's Australian Financial Review story as it appears on the paper's website:
(Click to enlarge)
And a commentary on the slush fund from this morning's Weekend Australian:
The story just keeps bubbling along.
Fortunately for the Prime Minister any allegations of impropriety involve quite a complicated argument that is hard to summarise in a 30 second television or radio grab. It's only if comments like the one I noted in my Crikey column on Friday become commonplace that there will be a chance of it being really damaging:
"Crooked lawyer" is a description that does cut through and it won't surprise me if the Prime Minister starts going down the litigation path sooner rather than later to prevent it.

Missing Megalogenis

George Megalogenis has his last column for The Australian this morning. Makes it something of a sad day for Australian journalism really. For years he has been one of the national daily's redeeming features with his thorough, but never boring, political and economic analysis. And always done in an even-handed fashion that, when you looked at his often pointed criticism of individual politicians and governments over time, defied attempts to portray him him as a partisan supporter of any party.

The sophisticated cigarette packaging

The only problem getting my weekly carton this morning was the difficulty the shop assistant had in recognising my brand among all those of a similar colour.
The new label cigarettes have arrived in store and my congratulations go to the Department of Health designer. They look quite sophisticated in their black (supposedly olive but it seems black to me) and white way. To me mind there's no deterrent effect at all. Well done.

A Tony Abbott joke

The Opposition Leader responding to a suggestion that Labor would be trying to portray him in a negative light:
From this morning's Sydney Morning Herald

Saturday, 3 November 2012

The propensity of politicians to sue

A glance at a dictionary would show you that a Sydney Morning Herald story used an inappropriate word to describe Martin Ferguson's role in renegotiating the mining tax after the sacking of Kevin Rudd. Take the word used literally and you would think that the resources minister had arranged things with mining companies for his own personal financial advantage. It is the kind of word that as a journalist conscious of the need not to needlessly defame people you would hope toavoid even if it was used by the person whose views you were reporting.
Having done far worse things during 50+ years in journalism, far be it from me to caste a stone especially as the context of the article makes it clear, to me anyway, that Rob Oakeshott did not think that the offending word had its dictionary meaning. How much better it would have been if he had responded to the letter from Martin Feguson's law firm's letter by admitting his error rather than complaining about legal intimidation.
And how much better still if the minister had picked up the phone and rung the independent MP before deciding on a duel by lawyers at 20 paces.
The only winner in this sorry little story is Prime Minister Julia Gillard who intervened to stop the mountain being made over the verbal molehill.

Harsh political markers out there in the social media

Those who comment on the US presidential election in the social media make mainstream media pundits look like softies. A study by the Pew Research Center Project for Excellence in Journalism shows Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are treated in a much more negative fashion on Facebook and Twitter than on television, radio and newspapers.

Overall the media coverage veers to the negative with Obama being let off a little more lightly than Romney.

Among the other findings of the study:
  • Horse race coverage is down from 2008. Overall, 38% of the coverage coded during these two months was framed around what is typically called horse-race coverage, stories substantially concerned with the strategy and tactics of the campaign and the question of who was winning.
  • That is down from four years ago, when 53% of the coverage studied during a similar period was focused on the horse race. Coverage of the candidate policy positions comprised the second-largest category of coverage, 22%, similar to 2008. Coverage of voter fraud laws and other political topics that largely did not involve the candidates was tied for the third-largest category at 9%, and was a subject that was almost nonexistent in the narrative four years earlier.
(Click to enlarge)
  • Debate coverage was more about who won than what candidates said.
  • The two candidates received similar amounts of coverage.
  • Among the issues, the economy dominated but less so than in 2008.
  • Of all the platforms studied, the tone of conversation was the most negative on Twitter.
  • Network news viewers received a different narrative about the candidates depending on when they watched.

Is Labor's "momentum" really true?

There's food for thought about Australian federal Labor's recent polling improvement in these comments about the US Presidential election from Ezra Klein's Washington Post Wonkblog:
There’s an argument out there that the idea of “momentum” is largely a conceptual error. Momentum means something in physics: A car rolling down the hill gathers momentum as a result of it rolling down the hill. But that’s not obviously true in politics. There’s no reason to think that a candidate experiencing a few good days of polls or news will, by virtue of that good news or good polling, experience more good news and good polling. 
But I’d go further: I’d bet that a careful study of media mentions of a candidate’s “momentum” would find that they tend to presage that candidate losing altitude in the polls. That’s because while “momentum” may not be real, reversion to the mean is.
When a candidate has been overperforming where they’ve been in the race for long enough that the media has become convinced of their “momentum,” that’s good evidence that they’re getting an unusually good run of good news or good polls, and the race has drifted away from its fundamentals. And when that happens, it tends to mean that the likeliest thing the race will do next is return to its fundamentals.