Saturday salon 17/9

1. Conroy walks out

It’s not a stunt, Senator Stephen Conroy has resigned from parliament, effective from 30 September.

Senior Labor figure and so-called factional warlord, Conroy resigned from parliament by tabling a speech in the senate late on Thursday night. Bill Shorten is oversees and apparently knew, but no-one bothered to tell acting leader Tanya Plibersek.

Apparently he wants to teach his nine year-old daughter how to play soccer. Albo spoke to him on Friday morning:

    but wouldn’t speculate about why he was going, telling the media that his private conversation with Conroy was “frankly, it’s none of your business”.

    Albanese said there was “absolutely” no bad blood in Labor, or the right faction in Victoria led by Conroy, and he wasn’t pushed.

    “I think it’s really important that people be treated with respect,” he said.

I suspect few in Labor will mourn his passing, but establishing the NBN was his monument.

2. What the election was really like

Richard Fidler talked with Mark Di Stefano BuzzFeed’s political editor about his book What a Time to Be Alive published by MUP, and particularly about what it was like covering the last election.

Di Stefano says that Turnbull really didn’t like campaigning, would do two events and then knock off about 1.30pm. He reckons it costs about $2000 per person per day to follow one of the leaders, travel lodging and food included. For that he reckons he got in two questions to Turnbull in five days. Local members were not allowed to talk to the media – they just got to stand in the background.

For TV no doubt the images were essential, but for him, armed with a mobile phone, it was next to useless.

Anyway Di Stefano’s take on politics and the media is well spending 50 minutes of time.

3. Malcolm on the move

Last week Turnbull was in a muddle and so mired that Aaron Patrick at the AFR gave him a D-. This is how he was scored by 50 business leaders, former Liberal politicians, academics, economists, administrators, lawyers and lobbyists:


Barely a pass.

Now it’s a week on omnibus wins from Phillip Coorey and Laura Tingle says The Turnbull government’s actually starting to work. The expression on the beast says it all:


Malcolm tells us how:

    Malcolm Turnbull insisted that despite the pantomime of question time, it was good for all Australians to know that “with a little less grandstanding, a little less name calling and a little more constructive negotiation, we can achieve great things for Australians and their future”.

Who would have thought it!

He’s done $14.1 billion of budget repair in one week. However, that may be the easy bit. Things might get a little harder now.

4. Marriage equality plebiscite

People like Coorey and Tingle are tending to blame Bill Shorten for the fact that marriage equality may go nowhere for a very long time now that Labor has said it won’t pass the plebiscite legislation. However, it’s the conservative rump of the LNP that Turnbull sold out too that’s the problem. Coorey states Turnbull’s situation well:

    The plebiscite is not [Turnbull’s] personal preference but it is the preference of a majority of his party. Go against it and he is toast. Primarily, the plebiscite is preferred by the conservatives because they believe they can win a campaign to defeat same-sex marriage.

Coorey got that much right.

The most interesting commentary I’ve seen is from Timothy W Jones who says marriage has very little to do with religion (and vice versa). He says marriage equality is being opposed mainly by the conservative religious right, but mostly on secular grounds – the rights of the child and harm to Australian family values.

The state already has a concept of marriage which goes beyond the churches, and many church leaders understand that.

He links to an Essential poll which shows that support for same-sex marriage is:

  • 53% among Christians (with 41% opposed)
  • 62% among members of other religions (with 30% opposed), and
  • 67% among people with no religion (with 24% opposed).

That was in 2011.

5. Super changes kinder to the super rich

I’m not going to spend time on it, but Sally Rose has the good oil on the last chance for the super rich to stash loot away until 30 June next year.

Introduction to Saturday salon

Because of the way the blog currently presents posts on the home page I think it’s better to remove the introductory material to a different place. For new readers, here’s the rationale for this space.


An open thread where, at your leisure, you can discuss anything you like, well, within reason and the Comments Policy. Include here news and views, plus any notable personal experiences from the week and the weekend.

For climate topics please use the most recent Climate clippings.

The gentleman in the image is Voltaire, who for a time graced the court of Frederick II of Prussia, known as Frederick the Great. King Fred loved to talk about the universe and everything at the end of a day’s work. He also used the salons of Berlin to get feedback in the development of public policy.

Fred would only talk in French; he regarded German as barbaric. Here we’ll use English.

The thread will be a stoush-free zone. The Comments Policy says:

    The aim [of this site] is to provide a venue for people to contribute and to engage in a civil and respectful manner.

46 thoughts on “Saturday salon 17/9”

  1. On the Plebiscite Question, I’d like to suggest one.
    ” Should the Government have any say in relation to Marriage ? “

  2. Jumpy, a marriage confers important legal rights, for example, who arranges the funeral of when one partner dies, and even who is allowed to be present!

    The state has to be involved.

    Jack Thompson, the actor, I believe has an unusual arrangement, where two sisters share him. I believe the sisters decide the sleeping arrangements each night.

    If everyone’s happy I can’t see a problem.

  3. The state has to be involved.

    No it doesn’t Brian, a will sorts that. The Governments have always wanted the voters to be more and more dependent to them, its in their interests not ours.

    Why does a married person have greater stature than anyone else ?
    The State has no business discriminating against anyone.
    They pork barrelled a segment of the community that they should not have.

  4. No Jumpy, a will doesn’t sort that out. The surviving partner needs to wait until probate is granted before the will’s instructions can be carried out. That’s going to delay the funeral unreasonably, to say nothing of those who die intestate.

    Probate is the process of proving and registering in the Supreme Court the last Will of a deceased person. When a person dies, somebody has to deal with their estate.
    It is usually the executor of their Will who administers the estate and handles the disposal of their assets and debts. In order to get authority to do this, they usually need to obtain a legal document called a ‘Grant of Probate’.

    From here.

  5. A bit surprised by Conroy. It had to be on his mind yet he still faced the election. Did he gain further entitlements or some sort of benefit?
    Whatever his reasons are he does not seem ready to share them around. Albo’s comment (from Brian above)
    [ …but wouldn’t speculate about why he was going, telling the media that his private conversation with Conroy was “frankly, it’s none of your business”.

    Albanese said there was “absolutely” no bad blood in Labor, or the right faction in Victoria led by Conroy, and he wasn’t pushed.

    “I think it’s really important that people be treated with respect,” he said. ]
    This is unhelpful and clearly as bland as can be made. I think there is more to the story. And since when was it none of the electorates business that a recently elected senior politician should unexpectedly resign? Or that there was no bad blood somewhere – really? I expect better from Albo.

    Marriage (in)equality? I can’t believe how politicians see themselves as keepers of the keys of sexuality.
    As a young person I worked out pretty easily that even if I wanted to, I could not change my sexual preferences. They are simply not elective, there is something in us that determines these things, and it is not “our choice”. Yet some see it as a defect, but a different type of defect compared to say Downs where help is readily given. For gays, their fate is to be made to suffer.
    It is inconsistent with reason and compassion. Yet the trauma for gays goes on and on. I thought we could do better.

  6. Geoff, I think most people within Labor think there was more to it with Conroy, possibly a falling out with Shorten. We may find out in the course of time, and yes, I’d say we do have an interest unless it really was private, as we have been told, in which case Albo was right.

    Jumpy, I haven’t followed gay rights closely, but I’ve heard of gay partners not being allowed by the family of their partner to even visit in hospital when the end was clearly nigh.

    You are clearly obsessed with state power, but the state is securing the rights of those who might suffer discrimination. It’s one of the reasons we need state power, democratically elected.

    Laws in areas like this are usually based on norms, but the state apparatus should also protect the vulnerable from the majority.

  7. Geoff, I think sexual preference is on a spectrum, from completely gay to completely straight. I think the no choice zone is possibly somewhere in single figures, I can’t remember exactly where.

    Along the spectrum, some are genuinely bi-sexual.

  8. Conroy is under the old rules where 20 years gets heaps of taxpayer funded air travel for life, that came up on May 1st and Turnbull called the election a few days latter, caught Conroy out.
    Too risky to have a star example of political entitlement rort to start an election campaign.
    Also the AFP investigation can’t be ruled out as a factor.

    I’m sure he’ll be drafted to some government boondoggle, keeping his snout in the trough, a union super fund director or some such.


    You are clearly obsessed with state power,….

    Nope, just not addicted to it or see it as the answer to everything.
    Why need the governments permission to get married ?
    My point is to remove a discriminatory practice not add to it.
    People should not be discriminated against because they are unmarried, surely you agree with that ?

  9. Brian I agree about there being a spectrum of preferences, but believe they are also engineered into the DNA or whatever. You can perhaps look at just how a person copes with being bi-curious and whether it is suppressed or exercised, and if that has a social impact that the pollies can manipulate.
    Is it OK to be gay as long as you also like the other sex?

    Either way I don’t see sexuality as an elective, you are what you are. My sympathy becomes very thin when behaviour underlain by DNA involves children or vulnerable persons.

  10. Sorry, folks, been hit with the ‘flu – and so has my computer (at times).

    Why the obsession with “Leaders”?

    This is Australia, not America – or North Korea, for that matter. Yes, the various political leaders are important but only because their behavior can influence policy decisions, that’s all.

    We do not need to mimic the silliness that happened during the Prince Of Wales’ visit in 1920, nor do we need to worship “Il Duce” or “Der Fuehrer” Bob Menzies as he was worshipped. The political leaders here do not yet have semi-divine status.

    I couldn’t give two hoots what certain eminent persons think about Bill Turnbull or whether he wears his socks inside-out. If the story is not about policy – or the lack of it – then why is it it not relegated to the Celebrity & Entertainment pages of the papers rather than wasting ink in the News sections?

  11. Marriage is still a useful package of rights and responsibilities, easily recognised by others,

    You might hve noticed, Jumpy, that it’s not compulsory. people can make other arrangemnets if they like.

    So too with expense. I’m not sure you can do it for nothing, but expenditure beyond a few hundred dollars, less than you’d pay a lawyer, is entirely your choice.

  12. Not sure what business it is of ” others ”

    Look, I get that you only see the choices as ” State approval to group A ” v ” State approval of groups A and B ” ( the groups C,D,E,F…… debate will come later )
    I think there is a 3rd, ” None of the States business “, Im waiting for someone to explain why the 3rd option is worse than the other 2.

  13. Geoff, I agree sexual preference is mainly genetic, with culture having some influence on how and whether it’s expressed.

    Graham, there have ben a few bugs doing the rounds here, so sorry to hear you got caught. I spend a fair bit of time out of doors, and tend to miss out.

    Jumpy, about a half a century ago I did some study on the theory of organisations. I’m not going to try to go back there now, but institutions play a kind of scaffolding role for society through time, or think of them as an important part of the glue that holds us together and provides social cohesion.

    Try to think of government’s role as a service rather than an interference on matters like this. By choosing to take advantage of this service people can save themselves a lot of bother and achieve a status that has automatic recognition by others within society.

    Within that there are many choices. My wife chose to keep her own surname, we don’t have joint bank accounts, she bills me for household spending and on big items we discuss and negotiate etc.

    I know a couple who live in separate houses, but the fact that they are still married tells others something important about the relationship when you are dealing with them.

  14. Again, what business is it of others, it’s a private matter ?
    This fundamental issue needs discussion.

  15. I keep sayimg, Jumpy, people can keep their relationship private if they wish (good luck!), but most don’t. They pay big bucks to have a big shebang, wear rings and stuff.

  16. Jumpy discussion (on same sex marriage) has been exercised. It just needs an few good parliamentarians to act to fix it.

    If your fundamental issue here is privacy that is a different fish altogether.

    On another matter…Hillary Clinton staggered or fainted the other day. No time was wasted in declaring her unfit to assume the role of President even before her condition was explained. One network even announced her death – really! The clamour that went up over Hillary’s moment was both amazing and alarming.
    Clearly a big button had been pushed that triggered an hysterical response perhaps already crafted for such an occasion.
    It worries me greatly that the media can be so readily turned to serve mischief.

  17. Geoff, you are right. I’ve been looking at that Hillary thing. I might add to it a bit and put it up as a separate post this evening.

    Apparently it started with Karl Rove a couple of years ago!

  18. They pay big bucks to have a big shebang, wear rings and stuff.

    True, and if its not taxpayer funded the State should have zero involvement.

  19. It just needs an few good parliamentarians to act to fix it.

    Here we go again, State intervention is only answer to ” fix ” none of its concern.
    Give me strength…

  20. Jumpy at the moment, that is the only way to change or fix it. OK it does not suit you and many others but there you have it anyway.

  21. Have what Geoff ?
    The State dictate which consenting adults are permitted to Wed ?
    It’s not the only way to ” fix ” this, is the only way you’ve been lead to believe it can be.

  22. Jumpy I put it out as an existential view. That’s how it is atm. Sure you can change it, but right now it is what it is.

    I reckon if Clive can get in, you should romp it in Jumpy. So go in there and fix it.

  23. Jumpy, to paraphrase (or appropriate) Pauline – that’s the Australian way. It’s as Australian as Vegemite (when it wasn’t Halal), police corruption and locking up refugees in gulags.
    If you don’t like it you’re free to leave.

  24. Jumpy: You are right. The state could solve the marriage issue by simply cancelling all the legislation associated with marriage.

  25. …are permitted to Wed…… ??

    OK with me, as long as the State leaves me free to Thurs.
    I hope the fundamentalists don’t predict I’ll Fri.

    Probably we all got soft because we Sat in the Sun too long, enjoying ourselves far too much. 🙂

  26. Last night I heard via NewsRadio a BBC program about marriage in the Middle East and problems engendered by mixed faith marriage.

    In Isreal you can be a Jew but some kinds of foreign-sourced jews, and their offspring born in Israel are not recognised as Jews and can’t be married in Israel. They commonly go to Cyprus to be married.

    Part of the problem seems to be that the state has no recognition of secular marriage, or anything beyond the definite constarints of their religion.

  27. A Jewish Israeli I knew decades ago emigrated with second (Jewish) spouse to Australia, but some years later on a visit to Israel was nabbed by rabinnical authorities (not a secular court) and detained for months, due to a complaint brought by his ex-wife.

    Come to think of it, perhaps his divorce wasn’t recognised by the religious authorities?

  28. Watched the first part of Howard’ presentation on Menzies. Thought I would get sick of Howard and turn off quickly but got sucked in by what was said by those like Hawke who had lived through those times.
    For the Davidson’s it was a look back at what the world was like when we grew up. (Both old enough to have started university while Menzies was prime minister. Me from a small business/farming family with attitudes not all that different from Howard’s family and my wife the Labor supporting product of a communist coal mining extended family.)
    What interested me was that this post war period was quoted as

    a golden period for Australia’s economy. For a quarter of a century, the economy grew by almost 5 per cent a year, unemployment averaged less than 2 per cent, and real per capita income almost doubled.

    It was also a period with a high level of protection and government control of the economy.
    Despite all this Howard and Hawke criticized Menzies for not supporting the free market reforms that have given us the Australia of today.

  29. John, I too found the program more interesting than I expected. And I look back on the 1950-1970 period when there seemed to be consant improvement, from a fairly low base, and hope.

    I think you’ll find that there was strong economic growth all over what is now known as the OECD after the depredations of WW2, and I think the main trade deals were limited to the OECD and its progenitors, where the motivation was largely to bind the economies so tightly they would never go to war again.

    I think the story is complex, but it was during this time that the welfare state became a reality and common people almost universally had a decent life, for the first time in history. That’s within the OECD.

    Capitalism, which had been seen to have failed during the great depression, came into its own, and the benefits were reasonably shared.

    Immanuel Wallerstein says things got tougher around 1968-70 for a variety of reasons, and big capital started to invent new ideas of how to make money.

    One was free trade which certainly came from the big capitalists, the multinationals, who wanted to roam the world at will, and who have done well. However, there has been increasing inequality within most OECD countries, as the less privileged classes have not done so well.

    Hawke and Keating had a vision that went beyond the expoitation of capitalists to more global openess, inclusion and ultimate integration.

    We are at a point where Wallerstein says everything is in play – there may be a beneficial outcome, or it could be quite gruesome.

  30. Brian: At the start of the post war era leaders were determined to avoid the disruption and uncertainty that had occurred between the wars. Hence closed, controllable economies and relatively fixed exchange rates that allowed tariffs to work. The political and industrial leaders were also scared by communism to the point that they saw the need to improve worker conditions.

  31. John, I remember John Kenneth Galbraith saying that back in the early 1930s capitalism seemed broken and people were looking around for other ways of organising the political economy. Certainly there was a real competition of ideas, and when the Russians put up Sputnik in 1957 it seemed as though they were in front.

  32. I’m believe that Fascism in the 1930s was not universally seen for what it was. I’m told that the Port Pirie Recorder in 1938 records one Bob Menzies as praising Herr Hitler and his ability to get things done.

  33. Sputnik? I was 11yo then and watched it fly overhead – or maybe that was Yuri Gagarin… Anyway it galvanised the West (even Australia) into advancing science right down to primary school level.
    Fair to say I think that it led to the US going to the moon.
    Australia seems to be drifting away from science these days and I can’t quite work out what the new interest is.

  34. Geoff, I was in a secondary boarding school in 1957, and we all got out in the lawn and watched it go. Yuri Gagarin came in 1961.

    But you are right about science. It led to the Commonwealth providing funds for secondary school science blocks, which was succeeded in 1968 be secondary school libraries. It may have motivated also the Commonwealth push into university funding in the late 50s. From 1972 Whitalam opened the whole school sector to federal funding and the rest is history.

    I think the current official passion is for the formal curriculum across the board, starting as early as possible and for measurement and accountability. The whole exercise is self-defeating. No-one has asked the kids and the parents. Not recently.

  35. No-one has asked the kids and the parents.

    What the kids want is irrelevant. But being a parent, I want them to be taught numeracy 1st, literacy 2nd, science 3rd and all the rest is the responsibility of their Mother and I.

  36. Back in the 1970s I visited a Catholic primary school in Nambour. In Year 7 the nun in charge of the school worked out the curriculum with a committee of students.

    Perhaps unsurprisingly, they came up with something that looked much like any other curriculum, but it was “theirs”, they owned it.

    She was Sacred Heart from memory. It was Friday pm and I gave her a lift to Brisbane. One of the most exciting educators I’ve ever met.

  37. These days the most important thing kids need to learn is how to learn, how to deal with new ideas and how to solve new problems. It is what you need to thrive in a changing world. (OK – Bit hard to do this if you can’t read or handle algebra plus a few other basic things.)

  38. Learning how to learn, managing their own lives, problem solving, learning how to co-operate/deal with other people and treat them with respect.

    Schooling is mostly working against these aims at present as far as I can see.

    Jumpy, I hope your maths beyond numeracy is in good shape, and there is a host of other stuff you and your missus are unlikely to know, like foreign languages, history, physical education, exposure to expression through the arts and more!

    I hate to tell you this, but you are prioritising your own rights over those of your kids. We can’t have kids constrained by the limitations of their parents! The source of sustenance can be the source of oppression.

  39. We can’t have kids constrained by the limitations of their parents!

    Let’s just hand them all over to the State then, what age you recon, 12 hours old ? Start of the third trimester ?

  40. Back in the good old days when i was a lad schools seemed to work on the assumption that parental help for a kids education would be limited. Helped people like Hazel whose mother had 3 yrs of primary ed and father had to leave school in first yr high school because his father was too sick to support the family. (On the other hand Hazel was really helped by parents who where really committed to the idea of her being as educated as she could manage.)
    What concerned me when our kids were at school was that the system seemed to be assuming that kids were going to be helped by parents like us with university education and strengths across a broad range of subjects.

  41. Can ‘o worms there John
    But if you are pointing to a shift of perceived parental obligation or responsibility there is much to say.
    I think that a discussion would have to include a social environmental component that accommodates times and norms. History is a very important component – my folks, born circa 1920 came off the back of WW1, into the Depression then into WW2 followed by raising a family in a rather unfamiliar post war society. Mum became a book keeper, dad a very senior airline pilot. Neither went to uni but I think expected that private school would take care of the vocational future of my brother and I.

    I start stuttering if someone wants to talk education these days. Whilst some individual teachers are fantastic, the system is of great concern to me. It seems disconnected from real world stuff.

  42. GH: Stuff real world. My attitude was that I wanted unis to give future engineers a strong, up to date theoretical framework that they could hang the experience they got from me on. Uni’s are not the right place to provide practical experience.

  43. That’s true John. But they can take a student to a point where experience does engage with what they did learn at uni…connecting dots if you like.

  44. I’ve just this evening been talking to younger son, who is working on a software development project. He didn’t do IT at uni, reckons it would probably be better that he did, but says anything older than a year is probably out of date.

    My impression is that it is easier to learn IT on the job than it would be to learn the maths he did at uni.

    Anyway, we were out celebrating a significant birthday tonight, so new SS should be up by about lunch time.

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