Archived entries for business and politics

Fright Makes Right

A few days ago, I read an article on the Guardian about asylum seekers. Admittedly, and in the interest of disclosure, I do not have strong feelings about this issue but I have been influenced a lot by many friends past and present who were boat people, books like Anh Do’s book (The Happiest Refugee), and the opinions of various friends and influences who do have strong feelings on the matter. Suffice to say, as a result I gravitate towards the idea that both major Australian political parties’ attitudes towards asylum seekers is horribly awry.

But back to that article: it was more than a little jarring to learn from the comments section that there are a significant number of people who believe the government has an obligation to restrict immigration and prevent asylum seekers from entering the country and claim that, as a democracy, the government must oblige “the will of the people”.

I find this extremely disturbing, but I cannot fault their logic. It is true that “we the people” (as the Americans would say) wield the power to eject governments that do not reflect their interests – as we will certainly see in the upcoming election (a Rudd comeback notwithstanding). However, my problem is that it is also a case of “might makes right“, where any idea supported by sufficient numbers can triumph regardless of whether it is ill-informed (as is likely the case, as I’ll get to shortly), or outright wrong.

The Australian mainstream media (MSM) cannot claim with a clear conscience that they had no part to play in this. Every issue is sensationalised, and the hysterical reporting inevitably wrings the topic to within an inch of its life for whatever potential it has to harass the Government (and sometimes even the Opposition) for no better reason than to generate column inches and sell newspapers. It goes far beyond what is strictly necessary in the interests of journalism and reporting – here is an example borrowed from an article on The Hoopla:

Christopher Pyne held a media conference Monday morning as well and had a crack at talking about the Liberal Party’s education policy. The first question he was asked when he finished? What did he think about Kevin Rudd’s leadership chances.

The second question he was asked was what happened to the rat that bit him during a charity sleep-out on the weekend. He quipped it died of bubonic plague. The third question to Christopher Pyne was from an excited journalist, thinking he had the scoop of the week, seriously asking if Pyne now had bubonic plague as well. Pyne had to point out it was a joke.

Oh yes, and questions on the education policy Pyne had spoken about? Zero.

So essentially, what really gets me is the possibility that people are agitating for change based on misinformation fed to them by lazy journalists and power-mongering media moguls. Of course, there’s always just plain old stupidity.

No doubt some will claim that the problem is a lack of leadership in this country. I don’t buy it. There was a profound quote in a letter to the editor of the Australian Financial Review: “Leadership in a democracy is by the consent of the led.” Sadly, its author, Greg Angelo, mentioned it in the context of criticising Julia Gillard, but I took a completely different meaning from it. The comments in the Guardian article show that a significant number of Australians do not consent to being led at all – they simply want a token figurehead to express their bigoted tendencies into law.

That does not bode well for either Kevin Rudd or Tony Abbott after the election, although Abbott has the clear advantage in that he possesses some of those bigoted tendencies.

Thoughts on Gillard’s speech

Australian Prime Minister Julia GillardI am so angry right now. The backlash by the Australian media over Julia Gillard’s speech against Tony Abbott in parliament a couple of days ago has made me positively livid. I’m not affecting a faux interest in the issue of feminism, in which as a man, I have no stake or claim. Rather, I am enraged by the continued efforts of the media to mislead the public on issues that have a huge negative impact on how our country is governed.

Articles in the mainstream media focused on how Gillard used her speech to vent her spleen at Tony Abbott’s expense, labelling the Prime Minister a hypocrite for “supporting” Peter Slipper, the Member for Fisher. In doing they they completely missed the context that the Opposition had recently tried to raise a motion to dismiss Slipper as the Speaker of the House – a particularly douchey move considering that parliament cannot simply vote to dismiss a member. It was a wedge tactic designed to force Gillard to be seen either as supporting Slipper by opposing the motion, or else having to concede that she made a mistake by installing Slipper as the Speaker in the first place by voting with it – ultimately forcing her into a no-win situation.

Hence it was a shocking surprise that the Prime Minister managed to pull a Jesus and the Adulterer on Abbott.

The Opposition has been using destabilising tactics on the already-shaky minority government through their acts of chaos in Parliament, as well as their constant undermining of Gillard’s authority using tactics that amount to “because she’s a woman” and causing the media to incite sexist and misogynistic sentiments from the electorate. At this point some of you are probably thinking “what a load of crap, Australians aren’t that small-minded!”, but as Anne Summers shows in graphic detail in a speech titled Her rights at work: The Political Persecution of Australia’s First Female Prime Minister, the point is undeniably true.

Therefore those who criticise Gillard of using her speech to gloss over the Peter Slipper issue are missing the point. It was calling attention to the dirty tactics that the Opposition use to ensure that this country continues to remain in turmoil. Every make-believe crisis of leadership and claim about a lack of personal integrity that the Liberal Party successfully perpetuates – followed along by their all-too-eager co-conspirators in mainstream media – reinforces the self-fulfilling prophecy that our country is in trouble. The government is therefore, constantly on the back foot as it tries to convince its cynical constituents that we are actually in a very good position (which we undeniably are).

The fact that the motion to dismiss the speaker lost by a vote of 69:70 is irrelevant since party members are required to vote with the party, so in a minority government this is an entirely unremarkable result.

Meanwhile, the Coalition have barely updated any of their policies since they lost the 2007 election and continue to campaign on making the other team lose, rather than winning on the merits of their own platform. Truly, if this country (and its politics) has descended into farce, Tony Abbott and the Liberal Party have the most to answer for.

The business of politics

Gerry Harvey

Gerry Harvey: "D'oh, they're buying it cheaper online!"

I’m a total online shopping junkie. Evidence of this is that I now have a credit card dedicated to overseas transactions because it offers the best exchange rate with the lowest fees (i.e. none). You can guess then, where my loyalties lie in the recent debate about applying GST to importing goods below the existing $1,000 threshold for overseas purchases, and why I hold retail windbags such as Gerry Harvey (of Harvey Norman) in very low esteem right now.

Businesses of late seem to be intruding further and further into the area of law. The Mining industry did it with great success in the lead-up to the 2010 Federal Election, forcing the hand of the Labor government to abolish their plans for a Resource Super Profits Tax with a $17 million advertising campaign that ostensibly led to the shock upset of Kevin Rudd being deposed from the leadership by Julia Gillard. This is in spite of many, if not the majority, of economists and academics declaring it to be sound.

And now the Retail industry is hoping for similar results with a campaign of their own.

Adam Smith, the father of modern economics, had this to say about the subject:

The proposal of any new law or regulation of commerce which comes from this order, ought always to be listened to with great precaution, and ought never to be adopted till after having been long and carefully examined, not only with the most scrupulous, but with the most suspicious attention. It comes from an order of men, whose interest is never exactly the same with that of the public, who have generally an interest to deceive and even oppress the public, and who accordingly have, upon many occasions, both deceived and oppressed it.

(From The Wealth of Nations, by Adam Smith)

One such deception is in the very high cost of certain goods in Australia. Savvy shoppers have realised that it is sometimes cheaper to import an Australian made product from the US or UK than to buy it locally, and the difference is much greater than just knocking off the 10% GST – even including the cost of having shipped the product there and back again. I have yet to see a single compelling argument that doesn’t regard naked greed, or gross inefficiencies in the supply chain, as sacrosanct.

There are many reasons why we absolutely must ignore the stink being kicked up by the Retail industry, but most important is not allowing big businesses to dictate to government the laws that the rest of us live by.

Election 2010

Australian Federal Election polling boothsLast Saturday I helped out at one of the polling booths for the Federal Election – the one at Putney Primary School for the division of Bennelong to be precise. I never used to be interested in politics; maybe thinking about having kids puts one in the frame of mind of thinking about the socio-economic environment we live in. And then of course there was the National Broadband Network.

I got roped into it because the officer-in-charge, one of my wife’s colleagues at the Salvo’s, was worried that they’d be short staffed and Jenny and a couple of her other colleagues agreed to sign up. Several more people turned up than were expected, maybe about 15 of us in total (not including the party spruikers outside), but that ended up being a blessing in disguise.

Jenny and I, and a guy named Charles were in charge of the Declaration votes – kinda like the “odd jobs” queue for people from other electorates, people whose names weren’t on the official roster, etc. The day started at around 7:15am when we arrived to help with the final set up of the booth (most of it had already been done the previous night by the officer-in-charge). People already started rocking up by about 7:30am, wanting to get the chore out of the way and not realising that polling didn’t begin until 8am.

So when we unlocked the doors, there was already a queue of people. Throughout the morning, the queue just kept growing and growing, to the point that it snaked its way out from the entrance out onto the street. I’m not 100% sure how many people there were in total, but judging by the count (more about that later), we would’ve processed in excess of 3,000 that day. The polls were open for 10 hours (from 8am – 6pm), which means that we processed on average 5 people a minute. The queue was long through most of the day and we had a lot of people who were irate at having spent half an hour or more minutes waiting in line. It only relented sometime around 5 – 5:30pm. It was a good thing that we had the extra hands otherwise none of us would’ve been able to take a break.

Speaking of breaks, after 6pm, there were none. The counting process began immediately after polling closed, with the spruikers coming in from outside to act as “scrutineers”. They themselves were not allowed to touch the ballot papers; only to watch and ensure that nothing improper happened during the counting of the House of Representative ballot papers (not sure why they didn’t bother with the Senate). On our part, the three of us “Dec’s” sorted through the votes cast for the other electorates, to be sent on for inclusion in their final tallies. After all that was done, the whole team went on to count and sort the “tablecloths”. The above-the-line votes had to be counted towards the primary vote, but the below-the-line would presumably be sent somewhere for computers to determine the 2-party preferred calculations.

Jenny says that she saw at least one obligatory penis drawing in amongst the informals (the ones where the voter didn’t provide a valid vote); I didn’t come across any – not that I’m disappointed or anything; just surprised at how well behaved people were overall. Then again, we were in Putney and not some boganville out West. Counting continued until at least 10pm, and the sorting, securing and packing until nearly 11pm. All I remember of the counting was that for the Senate, our location recorded 1500+ for the Liberals, against 720 for Labor. I can’t remember how many the Greens got, not that it mattered anyway. It was clearly Liberal all the way for the good folk of Bennelong.

On Sunday, we rested. And rested. I never would’ve imagined that it’d be possible to get that tired from sitting down all day, and sorting through bits of paper all night. For all that, we got paid $339.83 for the day itself, and $51.14 for the online training that we had to complete prior to the day – before tax. Was it worth it? Not for the money, that’s for sure. It was an interesting and highly educational experience, but not one that I’m keen to repeat again.

Copyright © 2004–2011. All rights reserved.

This blog is proudly powered by Wordpress and uses Modern Clix, a theme by Rodrigo Galindez.

RSS Feed